Culture At Large

Seeing God in Toronto Blue Jays baseball

John Van Sloten

I wonder if God had playoff baseball in mind when He created the heavens and the earth?

After making human beings - with amazing capacities to run, throw, catch and swing at things - He gave us a mandate to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with people, society, culture, sport, home runs, double plays and split-fingered fastballs.

God made us with the ability to play and He called us to create a game like baseball. (Well, maybe not directly, but it was inevitable!) And the game - this beautiful cultural product crafted by His image bearers - reflects what God is like.

Take the geometry of the diamond itself: 60 feet 6 inches from pitching rubber to home plate and 90 feet between the bases. There is something exactly right about this design. My friend Hugh Cook, a novelist and avid Toronto Blue Jays fan, rightly notes, “Have you noticed how many close plays there are at first base on grounders and at second base on attempted steals or at home when a runner tries to score on an outfield single? These just-right distances allow for all these close plays to happen. It’s a perfect geometry that mirrors the perfect design of God’s creation.”

Could it be that God has designed our physical world to maximize human flourishing, even as a baseball diamond’s dimensions create optimal excitement, edge and competition? And could it be that every close play, diving catch or squeaker single you witness this fall is meant to be a call to be thankful for our “just-right” world?

What better venue to learn how to win and lose gracefully, how to play and have fun, how to use these amazing bodies we’ve been given?

And what about baseball’s need for players of all shapes and sizes? Another friend, former Major League Baseball pitcher Chris Reitsma, told me this: “In no other major sport do you need to make the team up with so many specialty skills; size of the man matters for some positions, but not all. I have a friend named David Eckstein who is 5 foot 6 inches, 165 pounds, who ended up being a two-time World Series champion and a World Series MVP. ...It’s the ultimate team game played by individuals with different skill sets.”

Baseball, like a body, is made up of many different and necessary parts. A shortstop would never say, “Because I’m not a catcher I don’t belong to the team.” Imagine a whole team made up of pitchers! Where would the defensive fielding be?

As we watch the playoffs unfold this fall, couldn’t we be reminded of the God who is the perfect triune team, who calls us to communally image Him like a body or a baseball team does? Imagine watching a perfectly executed double play this week: the short stop darting to his left, snagging a grounder, tossing it while on the run to second, and the second baseman then pivoting and rifling the ball to first for the out. Does a beautifully fluid play like this not playfully image a Father tossing the design of creation to a Son who then calls upon a Holy Spirit? This game that we’ve made is meant to remind us of and point us to our maker!

I think all sport, creation and culture are meant for this. What better venue to learn how to win and lose gracefully, how to be a community, how to play and have fun, how to use these amazing and unique bodies we’ve been given and, through all these things, learn more about what God is like? Thanks to the resurgent Toronto Blue Jays, we Canadians have the opportunity to live into these questions in a very meaningful way. We get to experience what it feels like to be fully alive again and to know joy on a national level. We can be enveloped by the kind of unity that can only come as we all focus on the same thing. And maybe, by the grace of God, we’ll also get a foretaste of the glory of His final victory - kingdom come via a World Series win. 

Topics: Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, Sports, Theology & The Church, Theology