(This column was written by former Major League Baseball standout Jim Sundberg.)
Published in The Burg February 3, 2022 My Land of Innocence was located across the street from a ballpark in Galesburg, Illinois. By age 5, baseball was a passion—my first love. The ballpark became my second home. In the summer, there was seldom a time when I wasn’t the first kid in the park in the morning and the last one to leave at night!
It was frustrating to be unable to hit home runs, so we brainstormed about what to do. Together, my buddies and I created smaller fields inside the main field. That way, we could hit “home runs” … at least until we were old enough to be able to hit real ones with the park’s actual dimensions! This was pure joy and impossible to measure how much fun we were having. I did not yet know it, but this feeling of delight was passion’s voice building a foundation in my heart for future accomplishments! This act of discovery—adventure and creativity unleashed toward a goal—would be a game-changer. Each night when the lights turned off, we were met with disappointment, but this was buffered by the amazing freedom we had found in playing all day. There was always the hope of the next morning when sunlight presented us with a gift, like something left behind from Santa at Christmas. Only the prize wasn’t under a tree; it was under a canopy of light. Each day the sun pushed away the shadows and gave us back our treasured playing field. Our quest was to discover if any player or fan from the previous night’s game had left a gem behind. Maybe a penny or dime had been carelessly dropped from the pocket of a spectator below the bleachers. Any coins found on the premises became our chance to score our favorite bubble gum chew just like the big leaguers (or so we thought back then)! We couldn’t afford baseballs, so our only hope was to obtain a misplaced or forgotten ball. We searched hard to find one left behind by some disenchanted player whose performance made him uncaring of the precious leather pearl with stitches. We scoured every inch of that park, hoping to find one of those white nuggets stuck in some dark corner or stashed in one of the cinder blocks stabilizing the wooden benches in a dugout. There was a thrill in the pursuit of a white stained ball that was new every morning. Do it again tomorrow … and the next day … and the next day … whatever it takes. We showed up every day and pressed on for the find—constant discipline in pursuit of a treasure. We are created to chase after something. Most of my life was spent chasing after a baseball. The problem with chasing comes only when we pursue the wrong things. Baseball was an amazing chase, but it has never compared to pursuing after the greatest treasure of all: a personal relationship with Jesus. (Jim will be speaking at a men’s breakfast at Bethel Baptist Church on the morning of March 12 and at First Christian Church service on Sunday morning of March 13.)