Ryan Howard, once the darling of Philadelphia as an MVP and World Series champion for the Phillies, is now a struggling Triple-A minor leaguer in the Atlanta Braves farm system. Well, make that was a struggling minor leaguer. He was just unceremoniously cut in the midst of hitting .184.
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Not exactly the way you envision writing the script for the twilight of your playing career? Instead of riding off into the sun, he was riding the bus and non-glamorously competing in front of small crowds and critics. Now he’s riding home—done.
With the Phillies not picking up his $25 million dollar option for the 2017 season, he was forced to wait until after spring training before another team offered him an opportunity in spite of being plagued by injuries much of the previous five seasons.
And to his credit, though his dreams of once again playing in the major leagues are juxtaposed with the current reality of minor league play, he wasn’t grumbling or complaining with the change in scenery.
"Once you leave the minor leagues, you want to not come back. But it's the path that I'm on, the journey that I'm on...All you can do is just make the most of what you've got," Howard said. "You try to make the most of where you are to get back to where it is that you want to be. Get your work in, do what you need do, and get back up top."
There’s a universal example in Howard’s humble response. We may not be an athlete internally struggling with the right time to finally hang it up—feeling we still have “more in the tank—but perhaps we can relate on a personal level simply in that life rarely works out in the romanticized fashion we hope for or envision.
It has a way of throwing us curve balls, so to speak.
But it’s in those moments, when things don’t go our way, that we’re challenged with our response. It’s those moments that reveal the content of our character. It’s in those moments that scripture encourages that we do everything without grumbling or complaining (Philippians 2:14-16) and to humble ourselves before the Lord (James 4:10; Proverbs 22:4).
What does the future hold for the former MVP? Maybe he’s finally done. Or perhaps another team signs him to a minor league contract and he gets one more call-up to “The Show,” maybe serving as designated hitter during interleague play and filling the occasional pinch-hitting duties.
It’d be a long way from the starring role and dominance he once had—hitting 58 home runs, 149 RBIS and a .313 batting average in his first full season—but for the 37-year old, he's willing to accept it if it keeps his dream alive.