In Baseball And In Faith, Let’s Keep It Simple

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

I’m a lifelong baseball fan. As a kid growing up in Pittsburgh I followed the Pirates and cheered for players like Bill Mazeroski, Bob Friend, Elroy Face, and the incomparable Roberto Clemente. My devotion to baseball provided a lot of happy, exciting summer days and nights.
But in the last few years, following baseball with its newfangled emphasis on statistics and analytics has become a lot more complicated. To be a well-informed baseball fan these days you need to know what these initials mean for pitchers: ERA, ERA+, FIP and WHIP. And for batters you have to decipher things like: AVG, OPB, SLG and OPS. Homeruns are measured now by distance, exit velocity and launch angle. And a “barrel” is a new calculation of how “squarely” a round bat meets a round ball. Go figure.
The emphasis on statistics has led to a plethora of very obscure record keeping. “Well, Joe, this is the first time in major league history that a pitcher with seven letters in his last name has struck out more than 10 players on a Tuesday night in April when the temperature was less than fifty degrees.” Sigh . . .
Baseball has evolved into a complex, intricate science, more than a free-wheeling, talent-based, unpredictable sport.
But it occurs to me that what has happened to baseball can also happen to the practice of our faith. This is a particular pitfall for Catholicism with its highly-developed structures, laws, and traditions. All of these elements of the Church derive from its incarnational nature and its long and complex history. And all of these elements, properly understood, have meaning and value.
These religious tidbits, though, can seem irrelevant and off-putting to some. Perhaps that’s why so many young Catholics abandon the Catholic Church to join other less-structured, more spontaneous Christian communities. Of course in seeking a more emotional and intuitive experience, they also lose membership in the Catholic Church, founded by Christ, and all the graces the Catholic Church uniquely offers, especially the Holy Eucharist.
It’s a timely reminder for us. As Catholics who treasure our faith and its richness and beauty, let’s never lose sight of what it’s all about. It’s all about Jesus Christ, and the eternal salvation he offers us. In other words, in baseball, and in faith, let’s keep it simple.
Something to think about: Do you sometimes find Catholicism to be too complicated? How do you handle that?