Young people look up to celebrities, and young baseball players look up to big league baseball players. If you watch the Little League World Series, you’ll see the players do bat flips when they hit a home run. Basically they do what they see the big league players do on TV. And there’s so much criticism over that. The critics tell us, “You’re making an impact on these kids.” And they are right. I agree one hundred percent.
You see a lot of professional athletes in the news because they get in trouble. They’ll be in the news for cheating or drugs, or because they got arrested for beating their wives or girlfriends. A lot of times that’s going to be all that young athletes see, because that’s all the media projects.
I don’t know if I’m going to be projected through the media or not. But when I’m on that field, and parents come to the game with their kids, I would like those parents to be able to say, “Hey, play the game like Jeremy, because he does it right.” If parents have any idea of how I play the game, and what I do off the field, I would like them to be able to point me out as a good example. And then when the kids get interested and start looking into my life and reading what I’m about, they’ll say, “Jeremy does things right, but then he’s also following Jesus, so maybe that’s a good thing.”
I look at this from the perspective of a ballplayer that walks hand-in-hand in the journey with Jesus. There is no law against love! (Galatians 5:22-23) So if I can be in the game, playing baseball, using the voice that I’ve been given to love people correctly, then people will feel God. I think they will see Him. And it’s not actually me doing anything, because through Christ I can do all things, but apart from Him I can do nothing.
So if I can reflect Christ the right way, then kids will have something to look up to in a positive way. When I’m asked to speak to kids, they can see that I’m a pro athlete, yes, but they also see that I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, hands down, number one, that’s my identity. My job and what I do and what I’ve been gifted at is baseball, but that’s not who I am. And I want kids to understand that. I want kids to understand that they are children of God! God knew them while they were in the womb! And there are things they were put here to do. Their first priority is to glorify God. Their second priority is to do everything in the correct way to reflect the character of God.
If you look at it, you’ll see that youth ministry and baseball have a lot in common. What we do and how we reflect Jesus will help kids reflect Him down the road. In both cases, whether you’re a baseball player or a youth minister, you have to have the character of an image bearer and live as one, because the kids are going to imitate what you do. So baseball players and youth ministers have the same responsibilities.
I’ll write a bit more about that next time. See you Tuesday.