Happy Jackie Robinson Day. April 15th is the day of the year when baseball teams pay tribute to the first African American player to break into the ranks of Major League Baseball. Players wear jerseys with Robinson’s #42 on it and there are special events at every ball park in the majors. And what a mark and legacy he left on baseball along with Branch Rickey. You can read my movie review of 42 here.
And so I thought it would be fitting to write a blog post today about a man of faith who plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the franchise with whom Robinson broke the color barrier (although they were in Brooklyn at the time). I’ve written about other people on the current Dodgers 40-man roster before – feel free to check out my posts on Clayton Kershaw, Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Van Slyke, Chris Heisey and A.J. Ellis by clicking on their names But today, the focus will be on veteran infielder Jimmy Rollins who is in his first season with the Dodgers after coming over from the Phillies.
Drafted in the second round of the 1996 draft by the Phillies, he worked his way through the minors reaching AAA by the age of 20 and making his pro debut in 2000. In his 15 seasons with the Phillies, he was a 3 time All-Star, 4 time Gold Glove winner, and won the National League MVP in 2007. He was on 2 World Series bound teams winning it all with the Phillies in 2008. He stole 30 plus bases in 10 of those seasons, including a league leading 46 in 2001 – his rookie season. And not an all-speed and no power player, he had 4 seasons of 20 or more home runs. In fact, he became the 10th player in Major League history with 200+ home runs and 400+ stolen bases.
But at the core of Jimmy Rollins is his relationship with God. As you can read (if you scroll down far enough) on the Baseball Chapel website, Rollins says “Baseball is important to me, but my relationship with God is the most important thing in my life because it’s eternal.”
He also talks about feeling frustrated at a bad call or something that doesn’t go right, but he remembers that there are people watching him and that as a Christian, he needs to be careful at how he reacts so that God’s light continues to shine through him. I hope and pray that as he begins this new chapter in Los Angeles, that God’s light will shine brightly through Him and will make a difference in the lives that Rollins will encounter.
Here are my takeaways from Rollins story:
1- Let your Light Shine before Men so they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. – Often, when I think about the passage in Matthew 5 about hiding a light under a bushel, I think of being embarrassed to talk about God. I’ll admit that sometime I hesitate to talk about God. I don’t like to be mocked or thought less of. This is one thing God is working on in me – I know that He needs to be the most important part of my life and that means not caring what others may think and truly putting Him first in all I say and do. But I am also a competitive guy and am quick to feel anger or frustration at a bad call or a failure. Rollins words remind me that God’s light shining through me can be affected by more than just perceived embarrassment. Anger, frustration, cursing at others, lashing out – these are things that can dim the light shining through us, too. These can be the bushel that goes over our lamp. The bible is full of people who fail and are mistreated and yet, as God works through them, the grace and obedience they show is a good lesson for us to follow to. Others are watching us. Can they see His light shining through or are our attitudes and actions playing the role of a bushel?
2- Temporary vs. Eternal – A couple weeks ago, I was looking through a collection of old baseball cards. I used to be an avid card collector, but it had been years since I had thumbed through these baseball cards from the late 80’s. What surprised me was how many of the players I had forgotten about. They had been heroes of mine at one point, but as the game moved on without them, they left my mind, replaced by the next generation of players. Sports moves on as players come and go. The mark that they leave on the game tends to be very temporary. Rollins said that baseball was important only a relationship with God is eternal. The things that we spend our times thinking about and focusing on during our life are temporary and will largely be forgotten as time moves on, Let’s keep our relationship with God as the most important part of our life because it is eternal.