The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 

While the progression of sport competition and training in Saline County over the past several decades has become increasingly intense, if you hopped into your DeLorean and traveled back to 1986, you would realize that baseball was just as important to the life of the average ten-year-old boy then, as it is now. 

The game has not changed. The bats, gloves, cleats, uniforms and tournaments all have changed dramatically—but the game, the thrill of competition, the smell of fresh cut grass, the cheers from the dugout, remain the same. There is no doubt that baseball holds a special place in the hearts and lives and childhood memories of folks in these parts.

During a baseball game on April 5, 1986, I obtained my childhood prized possession. It was no ordinary game, though: the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals had come to Ray Winder Field in Little Rock to play an exhibition “Eighth Game of the 1985 World Series.” A ten-year-old, Cardinals-loving baseball fanatic’s dream! I had one objective: to get Ozzie Smith’s autograph. 

So, while in the swarm of fans, there I stood, dirty baseball and ballpoint pen in hand…pleading with my eyes and politely—yet assertively—asking “The Wizard” to sign my ball. It still gets me in my feels, thinking about that moment when he clicked the pen closed and handed me my dirty, aged, scuffed up, Rawlings baseball. Today it rests in a simple display case for all to see. 

This event reminds me of a story from the book of Mark (10:46-52) in the New Testament of the Bible. A man named Bartimaeus (Bart—a good baseball name, yeah?) had heard that Jesus was coming through Jericho, where he lived. Everywhere Jesus went people seemed to amass; they wanted to hear what He had to say, or see what He would do, or confront Him with their questions. 

Can you imagine the swarm of people surrounding Jesus at this moment in the streets of Jericho? All the while, poor blind Bart sat crying out, “Jesus…Jesus…have mercy on me,” while those around him tried to hush his irritating cries. However, Bart became even more boisterous in his pleading to be noticed by Jesus, which proved to be effective in gaining his desire. 

If Ozzie had asked me that day what I wanted, the answer would be simple, “I want your autograph on this baseball.” I wanted to prove to my friends for years to come that I had met “The Wizard of Oz.” Jesus asked Bart, “What do you want from me?” Bart’s answer, too, was simple. “I want to see.” The Bible states that Jesus said, “‘Go, your faith has saved you.’ Immediately he could see and began to follow Jesus on the road.” Bartimaeus had heard about Jesus, His love and compassion for people, and His desire to glorify God in everything. So when he had the opportunity to be in the presence of Jesus, he was ready to make his request known. 

Today we have that same opportunity, through prayer. Philippians 4:6-7 reads, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” What is it today that you need done for you? Be encouraged, you too can call out to Jesus in prayer through faith.