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Yesterday was the opening day of the 2019 baseball season. Our local home team is the Cincinnati Reds, the oldest professional baseball team in the country. They celebrate their sesquicentennial this year – 150 years of operation. This city loves baseball, their Reds, and, especially, the opening day festivities: a parade, music, food, and appearances of Reds Hall of Famers. The fans, as always, expect to have a winning season.

Checking the Reds team roster, I realized there were many new names. Doing some quick math, I calculated the average age of the 40-man roster was 28.6 years, not especially young or especially old. If I were to guess at the average years of major league experience they have, I’d say it’s between four to five years. I’m sure everyone of those players is as fired up about the season starting as the fans are. And everyone of them expects to have a winning season.

I’m not a ball player, but I suspect that most professional ball players begin with the end in mind. They want to win. They want to go to the playoffs, win the league pennant, and ultimately win the World Series.

But, I wonder how many of them started their season yesterday with their goal of making it into the Hall of Fame? And, if so, have they considered what they need to do to get there?

Hall of Famers are considered the best of the best. That doesn’t mean they didn’t strike out often, make fielding errors, hit only a few home runs, or have less than stellar RBI averages. Many, in fact, had some poor seasons and were on teams that never won a World Series. You might wonder, then, how did they ever make it to the Hall of Fame?

I believe there are three reasons. First, they had a love for the game. It was their passion.

Second, their on-field performance was better than that of most other players of their time. Generally, they had higher batting averages, made fewer errors, lower ERAs (for pitchers), and were generally all-around better ball players. They were consistent. They made good plays when it counted. And, game after game, they strung together above average performances.

And, lastly, I believe they were good teammates. They were role models for the younger players. They had a good work ethic, cared about, and encouraged their fellow players.

This morning at our Friday morning Communion service I was thinking more about baseball than I was about receiving the Holy Eucharist. I know, shame on me. But, our deacon, possibly the Reds’ largest fan, and who I know went to the opening day game, was presiding and he made me think about baseball. It’s his fault.

I wondered how many Catholics have the end in mind? How many start the day off with the idea of becoming a saint, our own faith’s “Hall of Fame”? Just like an up-from-the-minors pitcher, does a new Catholic believe he or she can become a saint? Do they know how?

I believe there are three ways to get to sainthood. Can you guess what they are? First, we have to “love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength and with all your mind” (Lk 10:27). And, we have to love and respect the teachings of the Church. We need to be that rookie shortstop who jumps up and down with enthusiasm.

Second, we have to be high-performers day-in and day-out. We have to have a consistent prayer life that is focused on not just talking to God, but listening to Him as well – we have to practice, study the game, and be coachable. We need to live lives of virtue, have the courage to do what is right and just and in the right measure – we need to hustle and make the right plays at the right time for the right reasons. And, we need to be merciful and charitable to those less fortunate – lovingly and unselfishly lay down sacrifice bunts when they are needed.

And, lastly, we need to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10:27). We need to help our brothers and sisters grow stronger in their relationships with Christ. We need to support, challenge, encourage, and teach them – we need to be the veteran players to whom the younger, less experienced players can look for guidance.

Each and every one of us can become a saint. We can make it into our Christian “Hall of Fame”. But, we have to look beyond today’s game, this year’s season, and that possible World Series. With that end in the back of our minds, we should strive to live holy lives by making each play in every game every day with the best of our ability; make as few errors (sins) as possible; and live our faith enthusiastically in life’s game rather than the lukewarm contentedness of sitting on the bench.

In life, each day is an opportunity for renewal. Each day is Opening Day. Let’s start today with the intention of making it into the “Hall of Fame”. God bless you all!

“Lord Jesus, I pray that someday I may join You in our Hall of Fame. Until then, I beg You to coach me and give me the grace to read Your signs so that I may make the offensive plays You desire. I pray, too, that the training You have given me will allow me to play the field with sufficient and errorless defense, preventing the Opponent from scoring against me. Amen.”

(Are You Hall of Fame Bound? was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

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