Baseball is like marriage and versa vice

In case it has slipped your attention, there are only 9 days, 13 hours and 6 minutes until Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season. In my humble opinion, baseball is the best sport in the world but I have found, over the years, fewer people are paying attention to it. Maybe it was the baseball strike many years ago, or the steroids scandal. Or maybe the games move just to slowly for our fast paced society. But baseball has many redeeming characteristics; chief among them is its similarity to marriage.

Observe how the two imitate each other:

Baseball is a game without a clock. In theory, an inning can stretch to eternity. Some marital arguments feel that way too. But so do some of the great times. And marriage, like an inning of baseball, should run to eternity. There should be no “we’ve run out of time” or “we just fell out of love.” In marriage, you gotta play at least till the 9th inning.

Baseball is played as a team and although individual performance is important, no one wins a baseball game alone. No matter how egotistical, no successful baseball player has ever bragged, “I made this team successful all by myself.” They know better. It takes nine players, each functioning in their role, to make the baseball machine run smoothly. Ditto for marriage. Some days, one marriage partner may feel like they’re juggling all the balls and pulling all the weight; but that usually doesn’t last long in a successful marriage. One partner pitches (in), the other catches (up). One’s a long ball hitter, the other hits for average. God puts marriage partners who are different together to complement each other and to play as a team.

Baseball players need managers and coaches—people who have done it before and offer advice about how to do it better. I love watching what happens in the dug out during a game. The manager leans over and talks to the bench coach. The pitching coach gets on the phone to talk to the bull pen and the base coaches flash signals to the runners. Words of advice flow like, “Try to swing level” or “You’re dropping your arm when you deliver the ball.” Good marriages require coaching (or counseling) from time to time also. If we’ll seek some professional advice or marriage mentoring, we can improve our game.

In baseball, you have to touch all the bases. If you miss a base they call you out. The failure to touch all the bases can be deadly in marriage too. We need to pay attention to the importance of physical affirmation through touch. Some of us need it more than others, but all of us need at least some of it. Loving, gentle touches of affection exchanged between husband and wife will put you ahead and keep your winning streak alive.

The baseball season consists of 162 games—that’s a long season. Too long, my wife says. And I admit, it is a bit of a marathon for the teams and fans. But it’s the team that does the best over the long haul that’s declared the champion in the fall. Hot teams who start great in April, but fizzle in August, never see the World Series. It takes consistent, faithful play day after day to be a winner. This is true in marriage, of course. You can’t be a great husband or wife for the first year or two and expect to coast the rest of the way. Every day is game day in our marriages and we have to play our best throughout the long season of life.

Baseball, like marriage, is sacred. The Yankees play in a stadium sometimes referred to as “the cathedral.” There’s an exhibit in the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame called “Sacred Ground." Professor William Herzog II, a New Testament scholar at Colgate Rochester Divinity School says, "People are incurably religious. We have to have some form of religion, and for some people it's baseball. It's only a game, but it has elements that point beyond." So does marriage. Marriage is a sacrament, a gift from God, created by God, to glorify God. Given that, it’s important that we give it our best efforts and treat it with the honor and respect it is due. The New Testament writer of Hebrews says, “Let marriage be held in honor by all”. We can do that best by working hard at our own marriages.

So welcome to the start of baseball season in just a little over nine days! And welcome to a new season of marriage where you, with coaching and commitment, can be a winner!

By Jim Priest

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