As the pageantry of another long-awaited Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season begins, and fans everywhere predict a World Series postseason for their beloved teams, pundits will once again beat a familiar drum — questioning the integrity of the modern version of a beloved pastime.
Fans, commentators and writers all carry on about the “integrity of baseball” — a Puritan philosophy — as if it is this moral standard that everyone should uphold and adhere to in the game. The rich history of America’s pastime is as eclectic as the players who wear the uniforms and play this wonderful sport.
The popular claim is that there’s an unwritten list of baseball rules, a subculture of baseball etiquette that serves as the governing board of “right” and “wrong” on the field of play. And any overt actions that are contrary to this unwritten list undermine the integrity of the game.
The irony of that vehement belief, however, is juxtaposed with the backdrop of the less savory realities of baseball’s covert history: performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), pitchers “doctoring” the balls to get more spin, corked bats, excessive pine tar usage, players consuming “greenies” (amphetamines) to help with alertness and longevity, the previous league color barrier preventing non-white players from playing in Major League Baseball (MLB), players and coaches betting on the game … and the list goes on.
In some fashion, cheating (seeking a competitive advantage) has been part of the sport since the game’s inception. In some fashion, even the best efforts at “respecting the game” have come with blind eyes, attempting to conceal unarguable moral flaws. And in some fashion, baseball is merely a personified glimpse into humanity’s greater moral struggle.
So what denotes “good” baseball integrity?
More pointedly, for the player wanting to honor the game, their competition, their teammates, and ultimately God, how do they foster a Christ-honoring culture when doing so seems countercultural?
Scripture provides some insights to that end:
Acts 24:16 encourages us to always strive to keep our consciences clear before both God and man.
1 Timothy 3:2 outlines the guidelines for right living as a leader.
Philippians 2:3 offers a proper perspective for viewing one’s rivals and competition.
And 1 Corinthians 9:24 reminds us that, “Though all runners compete, only one wins…”
One can reasonably determine that Christian players are encouraged to live intentionally, be disciplined, train purposefully, and compete in such a way as to win throughout all facets of life, regardless of the final scoreboard!
So as the fresh slate of another Opening Day causes hope to spring eternal for players, teams, and fans alike, we should hold unswervingly to our Greater Hope for guidance.
Enjoy the season...and Play Ball!