8 09 2020
Tom Seaver was brilliant in more ways than one | Newsday

SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT WITH PASTOR RUDY

 THANK YOU TOM SEAVER!

Death will never be easy for us to accept. Contrary to any nonsense of what Darwin might have said, I believe that the Bible was right on the money when it clearly taught us that mankind was created in the image of God. There is something clearly eternal at the core of who we truly are and when we experience the ceasing of the beating of a heart, it shouts foreign territory to our souls! God did not include termination in our DNA. Sin brought that enemy to our adventure and only the redemption that Jesus promises those that receive His free gift of salvation will still live even when he or she’s earthly time clock expires.

I grew up in the typical family of the 1960’s. Mom and Dad kept up with the proverbial Jones’ in every way possible. My Mom was a nurse and my Dad was the superintendent of buildings and grounds in Morristown. Mom worked days and Dad worked nights. We were all good people trying to do our best to get by and keep up appearances no matter what the cost. Somebody bought a swimming pool for their back yard, and then every neighbor put a pool in their back yard. My Dad built a patio, before you know it, the street was filled with patios. We lived, we went to school and church and work. We ate dinner together every night at 5 and then we watched lots of television, went to bed only to do it all over again and again and again!

Even back then I knew there was more to this life than living and dying and trying so hard to discover meaning and purpose. I was an exemplary straight A student who mostly feared that I would commit one sin too many that would result in me being separated from the God who I know was up there somewhere; but at that point I didn’t connect with Him personally. I tried so very hard to do what I needed to do to be good enough for my parents, my teachers, my coaches and myself. But no matter what, no matter where, no matter who, I admit that I came up way short of the standard of perfection. The acting on the outside would not remove the aching on the inside. I wanted to know who I was, where I came from and why the heck it mattered that anyone of us was here.

One of the vehicles God used to keep me engaged until I finally arrived at my destination was the game of baseball. Whenever I give my heart to something, I usually go overboard. I have never been a half way is better than no way kind of individual. Like most great dads, my Father taught me how to play catch, how to hit and all there was to know about the loveable losers from Flushing, Queens called the New York Mets. Dad was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan during his childhood, but they, along with the Giants, traveled west in the late 1950’s leaving the National League with no teams from the Big Apple and the only team left was that other one that won championships in the American League. With no chance of him switching allegiances to the Junior Circuit, he waited patiently for the new expansion Team to come along. I was born in 1960 and the Mets were birthed in 1962. We were a match made in Heaven. The only inescapable issue was that this team was terrible. They didn’t just lose, they blundered and bungled their way through 162 games a season. Why did I love them so? Maybe because they too were looking to find their way in this wild and crazy world.

In 1967, the Mets added a rookie pitcher to their roster named George Thomas Seaver. He wasn’t like anyone else who ever played on this team. He did his job with excellence and he hated to lose. He was determined to change the culture around him. He was not only amazingly talented at his craft but he thought through it. He was cerebral when it came to facing batters and choosing how to pitch to guys like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and Pete Rose. Tom Seaver was Rookie of the Year in 1967 and won 16 more games in 1968. Paired with new Manager and former Brooklyn Dodgers great Gil Hodges, the Mets transformed from a traveling circus to a core of talented young and exciting and very good ballplayers. I ate, drank and bled orange and blue. I followed Tom Seaver religiously to the point that I knew his every mannerism and nuance on the mound. I bought a Tom Seaver glove. I dropped and drove off the pitching rubber so that I got dirt on my knee like he did. Tom Seaver became my very first real hero. From that point on, #41 and me were inseparable. If you knew me, you were going to know all about Seaver and the Mets! We went together as a packaged deal. If you knew me in my childhood, you knew all about my passion for the Mets. When the Mets became World Champions in 1969, I finally felt like a winner myself.

Fast forward to 1975. By then my family moved for the umpteenth time. I was in the middle of High School and was forced to start again making new friends and finding my place in this world yet again. My dream of being a Major League Ballplayer was coming to an end. I could hit and I could throw but I was about as fast as a snail on steroids. Suddenly I was coming to terms with what my life was supposed to be all about. Tom Seaver was still my hero but he couldn’t be my Savior. I desperately needed something more. Shea Stadium no longer held that magic it once had for me. And while going to ballgames with my Dad were still one of the highlights of my year, I was yearning for more than an earthly trophy that would only rust and be forgotten in a year or two. I needed a forever thing.

April 27, 1975 in a church parking lot in Chatham, NJ I looked up to Heaven and surrendered my life to Jesus. I gave Him everything I was, am and all I hoped to be. Up to that point, #41 was an identity that had literally saved my life from a premature exit. Thank You Tom Seaver and Baseball for being there for me until I could actually find my real way home. What used to be a number, became my mantra. From there on in, I would live my life “For One!” Jesus became my Hero, my Champion, my Rescuer, my Redeemer and my Closest Friend. I am alive because Jesus is alive in me. God so loved me as nobody would and could and I wanted to spend the rest of my life serving Him!Last Wednesday night I heard the tragic news that my childhood Hero, my role model Tom Seaver had died in his sleep. I wept like a baby when I found out. Tom Seaver played such a huge role in making me who I am today. Once again, I felt that old familiar foreign twinge of pain in my gut that this can’t be the way our stories end. Life must be about so much more than just what happens here. Jesus came and lived and died and rose again to assure us that our game won’t end when the final out on earth comes and goes. God put eternity in our hearts. He wired us to win and to never settle for defeat. He told us that real love is expressed, not just physically, but emotionally and intellectually. Tom Seaver got me as far as he could take me and for that I am indebted to him forever. But thanks be to God that Jesus didn’t leave me stranded on third base. Jesus got me home and He longs to do the same for you.


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