God’s Baseball Team - Batting For Jesus?

"I don't want to offend anyone, but I think character-wise we're stronger than anyone in baseball. I believe God sends signs, and we're seeing those." - Colorado Rockies CEO Charlie Monfort

BP Sports and USA Today have published articles describing the role of Christianity in the ethos of the Colorado Rockies baseball team and their trip to play the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 World Series which starts this week. BP Sports commenting on the USA Today article said that “the (USA Today) story examines the influence of Christianity on the entire team -- from manager Clint Hurdle, to players like Matt Holliday and Todd Helton, to general manager Dan O'Dowd, to team CEO Charlie Monfort".

According to USA Today: No copies of Playboy or Penthouse are in the clubhouse of baseball's Colorado Rockies. There's not even a Maxim. The only reading materials are daily newspapers, sports and car magazines and the Bible. Music filled with obscenities is not played. Quotes from Scripture are posted in the weight room. Chapel service is packed on Sundays. Prayer and fellowship groups each Tuesday are well-attended. It's not unusual for the front office executives to pray together. Behind the scenes, they quietly have become an organization guided by Christianity — open to other religious beliefs but embracing a Christian-based code of conduct they believe will bring them focus and success.

The Rockies are having their best season since 1995 with a payroll of $44 million, the lowest in the National League's West Division. Their season ticketholders and fans are, for the most part, unaware of the significance the Rockies place on Christian values. "I had no idea they were a Christian team. ... I would love for them to talk about their Christianity publicly," says Tim Boettcher, 42, a season ticketholder for 12 years and an elder at the Hosanna Lutheran Church in Littleton, Colo. "It makes sense because of the way they conduct themselves. You don't see the showboating and the trash talking. ... They look like a team and act like a team." "We had to go to hell and back to know where the Holy Grail is. We went through a tough time and took a lot of arrows," says Rockies chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort, one of the original owners.

We started to go after character six or seven years ago, but we didn't follow that like we should have," he says. "I don't want to offend anyone, but I think character-wise we're stronger than anyone in baseball. Christians, and what they've endured, are some of the strongest people in baseball. I believe God sends signs, and we're seeing those." "We try to do the best job we can to get people with the right sense of moral values, but we certainly don't poll our players or our organization to find out who is Christian and who isn't," says O'Dowd, who says he has had prayer sessions on the telephone with club President Keli McGregor and manager Clint Hurdle. "I know some of the guys who are Christians, but I can't tell you who is and who isn't."

Is it possible that some Rockies are playing the role of good Christians just to stay in the team's good graces? Yes, former Rockies say. "They have a great group of guys over there, but I've never been in a clubhouse where Christianity is the main purpose," says San Francisco Giants first baseman-outfielder
Mark Sweeney, a veteran of seven organizations who spent 2003 and 2004 with the Rockies. "You wonder if some people are going along with it just to keep their jobs. "Look, I pray every day," Sweeney says. "I have faith. It's always been part of my life. But I don't want something forced on me. Do they really have to check to see whether I have a Playboy in my locker?"

While praising their players, Rockies executives make clear they believe God has had a hand in the team's improvement. "You look at things that have happened to us this year," O'Dowd says. "You look at some of the moves we made and didn't make. You look at some of the games we're winning. Those aren't just a coincidence. God has definitely had a hand in this."

God is betting on the Colorado Rockies?

Posted October 23, 2007


Avid Reader said...

Well this makes the series of great interest and trust you, Michael, to come up with this angle on the World Series!

I came across a similar article in The Nation which said …

In Colorado, there stands a holy shrine called Coors Field. On this site, named for the holiest of beers, a team plays that has been chosen by Jesus Christ himself to play .500 baseball in the National League West. And if you don't believe me, just ask the manager, the general manager and the team's owner. In a remarkable article from Wednesday's USA Today, the Colorado Rockies went public with the news that the organization has been explicitly looking for players with "character." And according to the Tribe of Coors, "character" means accepting Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior. "We're nervous, to be honest with you," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "It's the first time we ever talked about these issues publicly. The last thing we want to do is offend anyone because of our beliefs." When people are nervous that they will offend you with their beliefs, it's usually because their beliefs are offensive.

As Rockies chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort said, "We had to go to hell and back to know where the Holy Grail is. We went through a tough time and took a lot of arrows." Then there is manager Clint Hurdle and GM O'Dowd. Hurdle, who has guided the team to a Philistine 302-376 record since 2002, as well as fourth or fifth place finishes every year, was rewarded with a 2007 contract extension in the off-season. Hurdle also claims he became a Christian three years ago and says, "We're not going to hide it. We're not going to deny it. This is who we are." O'Dowd, who also received a contract extension, believes that their 27-26 2006 record has resulted from the active intervention of the Almighty. "You look at things that have happened to us this year. You look at some of the moves we made and didn't make. You look at some of the games we're winning. Those aren't just a coincidence. God has definitely had a hand in this." Or maybe the management that prays together gets paid together.

Does the organization endorse the statement of its stadium's namesake, William Coors, who told a group of black businessmen in 1984 that Africans "lack the intellectual capacity to succeed, and it's taking them down the tubes"? These are admittedly difficult questions. But these are the questions that need to be posed when the wafting odor of discrimination clouds the air.

You might think MLB Commissioner Bud Selig would have something stirring to say about this issue. But Selig, who hasn't actually registered a pulse since 1994, only said meekly, "They have to do what they feel is right." It's not surprising that Selig would play it soft. First and foremost, Bud's First Commandment is "Thou Shalt Not Criticize the Owners. Second, Selig and Major League Baseball this year are experimenting for the first time with Faith Days at the Park. As if last season's Military Appreciation Nights weren't enough, the New York Times reported yesterday that this summer "religious promotions will hit Major League Baseball. The Atlanta Braves are planning three Faith Days this season, the Arizona Diamondbacks one. The Florida Marlins have tentatively scheduled a Faith Night for September." These religious promotions are attractive to owners because they leverage a market of evangelical Christians who are accustomed to mass worship in stadiums at events staged by sports-driven proselytizers like Promise Keepers and Athletes in Action.

At one of the Faith Days in Atlanta, the team will sell special vouchers. After the game, the stands will be cleared and then only those with the specially purchased vouchers will be re-admitted. Those lucky chosen "will be treated to an hour and a half of Christian music and a testimonial from the ace pitcher John Smoltz." Smoltz is the player who in 2004 opined on gay marriage to the Associated Press, saying, "What's next? Marrying an animal?" Good times for the whole family.

The Rockies right now are a noxious reflection of a time in US history when generals speak of crusades and the President recounts his personal conversations with Yahweh. ("You're doing a heckuva job, Goddy!") If Monfort, O'Dowd and Hurdle want to pray on their own time, more power to them. But the ballpark isn't a church. Smoltz isn't a preacher. And fans aren't a flock. Instead of using their position of commercial power to field a God Squad, the Rockies might want to think about getting some decent players. There was once this guy named Babe Ruth. Not too much for the religion, and his character was less than sterling. But I hear he could play some decent ball.


Janet Witherspoon said...

The NY Times picked up on the Colorado Rockies ‘religion’ yesterday (October 23). Ben Shpigel seems to have place this particular orientation of the CRs into a much more benign light. He reported and I quote:

As a Jewish player who attended a Catholic high school and a Lutheran university, Jason Hirsh knows what being a religious minority feels like. So last December, when he was traded to the Colorado Rockies, Hirsh wondered if what he had heard about his new organization was true. Now, Hirsh said not once during the season had he felt uncomfortable with the place Christianity occupies within the organization. “There are guys who are religious, sure, but they don’t impress it upon anybody,” Hirsh said. “It’s not like they hung a cross in my locker or anything. They’ve accepted me for who I am and what I believe in.”

Asked how his own Christian faith affected his decision-making, General Manager Dan O’Dowd acknowledged it came into play, but not in a religious way. He said it guided him to find players with integrity and strong moral values, regardless of their religious preference. “Do we like players with character? There is absolutely no doubt about that,” O’Dowd said during a recent interview in his Coors Field office. “If people want to interpret character as a religious-based issue because it appears many times in the Bible, that’s their decision. I believe that character is an innate part of developing an organization, and to me, it is nothing more than doing the right thing at the right time when nobody’s looking. Nothing more complicated than that. “You don’t have to be a Christian to make that decision.”

Every Sunday, about 10 people gather for chapel, according to reliever Jeremy Affeldt, and Tuesday afternoon Bible study sessions usually attract seven or eight players. Affeldt said players discussed life and their families as well as scripture.

“Certain guys attend chapel, certain guys don’t,” outfielder Cory Sullivan said. “I don’t think that’s any different from how it is in any other major league clubhouse. Nothing’s shoved down your throats.”

Pitcher Mark Redman, playing for his eighth team in nine seasons, has been with the Rockies for only two months, but he, too, said he sensed a different chemistry. “I’ve been on teams with guys who you can’t wait to leave when the season’s over,” Redman said. “You don’t find a bad guy in here. I’m more than comfortable bringing my son in here. I haven’t been able to say that in the past.”

I have zero interest in baseball but this World Series I have got to see! I guess the male members of my household are going to be shocked by my ‘discovery’ of the joys of baseball.

Maybe God has introduced me to a new life in watching baseball ;-)


Philip Kurian said...

Slate has picked up on the evangelical Christian influence in baseball.

Apparently, the Boston Red Sox also have had evangelical Christians on their team including Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, and Jason Varitek.


Neil said...

Speaking as a Christian I think the story about the importance of Christianity to the Colorado Rockies (or indeed the Boston Red Sox) is a bit overblown. I doubt if any player believes that God is going to influence the outcome of a baseball game or indeed that the players are praying to God for their team to win.

I think most Christians would agree that God does not interfere with the outcome of physical events in this world and universe. If the Red Sox have better batters and pitchers I don’t believe God will intervene and I doubt that the players are expecting any such intervention.

However, God can help us with the things over which we have free will. We don’t have free will over a rock falling off a cliff and killing us – that is why we don’t refer to a rock as being ‘evil’. However, we do have free will over our reaction to physical events. Being beaten by a dozen plus runs last night can lead a team to just give up before the game has run its course or they can continue to play to the best of their abilities, give the crowd their maximum output, and take their loss with dignity and with a sense of congratulations to the other team for its skill and success. This is what I think the Colorado Rockies is looking for in its players when it speaks of looking for players of ‘character’.

When I face the possibility of a negative outcome in some aspect of my life, I do not pray that the possibility be removed. Rather I pray that my courage will be supported so that I can meet the danger and face it with fortitude and a sense of peace.


Arthur McCorry said...

Neil, you wrote We don’t have free will over a rock falling off a cliff and killing us – that is why we don’t refer to a rock as being ‘evil’.

I think it would be better to say that the rock, as a material thing, does not have free will and therefore its effects can not be considered ‘evil’.

If someone pushes the rock, which then kills someone, we can refer to that person as ‘evil’ if one believes that they have free will. However, if one is a materialist then one believes that the person and the rock are simply bits of the universe's matter and no ‘evil’ description can be made of either ‘object’.


PRD said...

After 3 games Boston appears to be putting this discussion to rest for good!