Monday, July 15, 2013

Thank you Timmy: Life Lessons from a No-Hitter

We paid our greens fees and my friends said "Are you sure you don't want even just a push cart?" With his first no-hitter fresh in my mind, I replied "Tim Lincecum threw 148 pitches last night and struck out half the batters he faced, the least I can do is carry my bag for 18 holes." 

My charge may have proven to be a little ambitious as I trudged through the 475 yard 16th hole, but I couldn't help but think of the 7th no-hitter in San Francisco Giants history and all the life lessons I have taken from it.  Here are but a few--some with examples that speak of the spiritual life and some that are implied... 
The importance of hard work.
The only way to get the distinctive "no-no" is to finish the game.  For Timmy the Kid, this meant being on the mound for nine full innings, for coming to bat 3 times and I'll write it again because in the modern game, it's rare--for throwing 148 pitches.  
Even though Lincecum said, "I felt fine out there from the first pitch. Maybe just a little sweaty" he had to have been physically and mentally exhausted." 

The spiritual life requires mental stamina as well.  My aunt once told "never take faith for granted.  If you don't work at it, you can lose it."  I knew her words were spoken from experience, and that work, quite often is hard.  Spiritual growth isn't a given; I now understand there are hundreds of spiritual disciplines for a reason.  Different disciplines resonate with different personalities. Regardless, they yield a common fruit--spiritual growth and a living faith. And the more you work at it, hopefully the easier it is to stay with it...Which leads me to...

The importance of sabbath.
Or in this case, the All-Star break.  Even though he was voted to the All Star team for four straight years (2008-2011), the rest this year will serve Lincecum and his $20.25 million dollar arm well.  

The break provides an important framework for thinking about the season.  Teams build their squad, rotation, line-ups and chemistry from April until mid-July, with but a day off but once a week (usually Mondays or Thursdays).  The three days off is significant. Once the All-Star break has passed, fans and athletes know what the focus becomes--how to get to the post season.  

The Christian sabbath is no different.  It marks a new week and when used for its intent--rest, worship and prayer, faith and family, it can refresh and re-energize the soul.  The sabbath is increasingly more challenging to observe.  Thank God for holidays and summer break, for they remind us what we are called to do weekly.  And when we do rest, we remember why it's important.
We never accomplish anything great on our own.
I asked my brother what percentage of the credit for a no-hitter should go to the catcher.  Even though I was much more generous with my number for the 2012 NL MVP, Buster Posey (25%), it was fun to think about.  A good catcher will frame the high heat in the strike zone; he calls each pitch, he aims to outsmart the batter in the box.  Of course the glory of this effort goes to the pitcher for he is the one using his arm to throw the ball at over 100 MPH. But there were many outs where and when #55 pointed to a teammate, calling them out (and maybe saying F*** yeah...this is a reference to a very popular Giants T-shirt).

My favorite image from this great game is Buster Posey hugging Lincecum for many reasons.  It puts Tim front and center, but that embrace from Posey verifies how we can and do lift one another up.  Our gifts and talents work in tandem with each other's.  It's no secret that Lincecum and Posey are not the best of friends. In fact, it's very rare that Posey catches for him. But on this night of nights, they made the masterpiece did Hunter Pence--awesome catch, Pablo Sandoval at third, etc etc.
Familiarity with a location or venue makes a huge difference.  
I came home from dinner with friends and immediately turned on the TV To watch the game because I had been to a Padres vs. Giants game at Petco Park last August. Giants fans refer to this yard as "AT&T South" because it so much Orange and Black in the stands, it looks and sound like a home game. Having visited a venue that rivals the beauty of AT&T North, made me want to watch this game in particular, and it changed the way I watch it.  I know the field, its quirks and how the Giants may play it differently.

My trip to Rome in April 2009 deepened my appreciation for "The Vatican."  When Cardinal Bergoglio became Pope Francis, I could envision where he was standing and asked us to pray for him before he prayed for us. They refer to a visit to Jerusalem as "The Fifth Gospel." I love that claim. I have no doubt visiting the Holy Land would transform my experience with the Readings and my faith. To walk where Jesus did must be incredibly powerful and humbling. I hope to get there someday....and to Petco for another series with the Giants in town.
To Win is to Honor Him.
I've written about Eric Liddell's words many times and given many examples for how and why I believe this is true.  As demonstrated in Chariots of Fire, Liddell believes the excellent use our gifts and talents is one way to honor the Creator--God the Father.  

When Hall of Fame announcer Jon Miller asked #55 who was the first person he was going go call, he immediately responded "my dad."  I wondered who he would say and his response came as no surprise to anyone.  Enough said.

The Freak.
Tim Lincecum is beloved by Giants fan for hundreds of reasons.  Drafted 10th in 2008 out of the University of Washington, he developed in our farm system.  He emerged as a positive face for the Franchise when we needed one--in the Bonds era was finally behind us.  He is why I consider the 2010 NLDS Game 1 one of the very best sporting events I have attended; he struck out half of the Atlanta Braves batters that night!  He gave this 2013 a much needed shot in the arm and he did it because of his talent, his teammates, his dad and now he gets to enjoy a week off.  Thanks Timmy for the memories!

And enjoy the Mid-Summer Classic tomorrow night.  Props to Mad-Bum, Buster Posey and Marco Scuataro

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