Friday, December 29, 2017

Baseball Observations with the Manager

Prior to Christmas I met for coffee with the manager and COO of the minor league baseball team I serve to discuss the past season and the season to come. I asked lots of questions, probed for answers to the team’s underachievement, and was very pleased that he trusts me enough to discuss so many matters of great importance to him. He is certainly not a believer in Christ, but he trusts me for such discussions. The 2018 season will be the seventh of my serving the club. Below are some of the observations we made and discussed.

There were a number of changes in the starting lineup from 2016 to 2017. There were even more changes to the bench and the pitching staff. That led to a loss of culture and a loss of team leadership, on the field and in the clubhouse.

There were changes in all the coaching staff roles, and their poor fit for the club also contributed to the loss of culture.

The manager wrongly assumed that the returning veteran players would step into team leadership roles and enculturate their teammates into the team’s way of doing baseball. As we talked, I mentioned that the introverted nature of these two veterans probably short-circuited their leadership potential. Whereas the manager expected these players to be the ones who would hang around the clubhouse after games to encourage, celebrate, console, or challenge, they were the first two out the door. I told the manager they had been at the ballpark for eight or more hours by that time and their relational tanks were probably empty. They wanted to get away to some solitude. He nodded his ascent and I could tell he was processing this leadership factor.

We also talked about the fact that all his players are now Millennials and the challenge that presents to managers and coaches of his (my) generation. I mentioned that I had observed the importance of having Millennials on the coaching staff and how that is working to great effect on college football staffs. We talked about the former player and team captain who is returning as hitting coach, as well as the two other offers he has out for the 2016 season’s bullpen coach, and the 2016 starting catcher to return as pitching coach. All are Millennials and may have a unique way of relating to Millennial players in ways that are more challenging to Baby Boomer leaders.

You may wonder, where is the ministry in this conversation? I would reply, it is everywhere. The manager has told me, very directly, about the hardness in his heart toward the Lord due to the death of both parents when he was quite young, growing up in an Italian Roman Catholic family. I have been building relationship with this man for six years and I am gaining his trust. I have given him good materials to read that both enhance his leadership of the club and inform his heart of the Lord’s truth, grace, and love. I have walked with him through his cancer scare and with his wife through hers. Ministry is woven into the fabric of each interaction I have with him, whether in person, via text message, email, or in the form of a book.

May I challenge you to look beyond the most traditional, pragmatic, and blunt ministry methods, to be more creative, more relational, and more deeply impactful by loving people extravagantly, and serving them selflessly.

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