It’s Little League World Series season again. Five years ago, the Chula Vista team beat Taiwan for the title. Last year the Eastlake All Stars made it all the way to the title game against Japan. The local successes in 2009 and 2013 have piqued my interest in following the series. I am amazed at the talent and the pace of the game; and, since they are kids, anything can happen. There is no such thing as a routine ground ball or a pop-up that is easily caught. This year, America is caught up with Mo'ne Davis, a pitching phenomenon and the first girl to win a game, at this level, as a pitcher. She can throw 70 mph and can hit, too.
Watching Little League baseball is refreshing. There are no contract disputes or free agency; it’s simply pure baseball. It’s hard to imagine anything better on a warm summer night. Inevitably, however, the values of the world edge their way in. Expectations and big-money-ball take over and thoughts about professional play are raised. Admittedly, I’m caught up in it, too. I have thoughts of Mo'ne Davis playing college baseball on formerly men’s only teams and perhaps making it to the majors. How cool would that be? In an interview, she was asked about her future in sports. She dreams of playing basketball for UConn and then entering the WNBA. Personally, I hope she plays for Stanford. At the same time, however, I wonder why can’t we – me in particular – just let her be 13 years old and enjoy the incredible moments of playing baseball.
An MLB expert, who I like to follow because he’s quite good at talking about rising talent in the minor leagues, weighed in on the Little League World Series. He said very few Little League champions make it to professional baseball. The reason is because of growth. These kids are great now but the question is whether or not they will continue to grow. Most don’t, said the expert. They are usually tall for their age at this level but some won’t grow much. Others have interest in other sports, get distracted by other things, or just don’t want to work hard enough to continue to improve. Most champions level off and never play under spot lights again. That is just how it works.
While I was thinking about this growth principle in sports, I came home to find out that Elijah has grown one full inch since May and Ethan has grown 1.5 inches. Now that’s growth! Will either of them play in a Little League World Series? Probably not. But, I hope they will continue to grow in maturity, in their studies, and in their faith.
Unlike the fleeting moments of high-level competitive sports, we are called to grow into the full stature of Christ. Even if you just met Jesus yesterday, and you are in your eighth decade on this earth and confined to a wheelchair, you can grow spiritually! A less extreme example is this: as our knees age, and our backs get weary and tired, we can still grow in faith. I’ve witnessed people with debilitating degenerative diseases grow tremendously in faith as their bodies withered away.
Very few people will get called up into the major leagues, but at some point everyone will be called to life with our Maker. The question is whether we will continue to grow in faith and in Spirit or, like many older Little League champions, find other interests that will distract us from growth.