Chris Sullivan in the DR: A Big Praise

I’ve been marinating for the last couple days on something I heard Friday and I just need to go ahead and give God all the glory for it.Julin is one of my favorite players. He is a charismatic kid with big dreams but at 16 years old he is only in the 6th grade. A couple of weeks ago we got a report from Julin’s teacher that he wasn’t going to school. When I talked to Julin, I found he didn’t like going to school because all the younger kids make fun of him and tell him he is too old and no good. He doesn’t like going to school because all the people in his neighborhood tell him he is dumb and should just play baseball. Julin didn’t have anyone speaking life to him. He didn’t have anyone encouraging or telling him he was capable, in fact, everyone was saying the opposite.

When I sat down with Julin I tried to explain to him as best I could why he needed to go to school.

If he doesn’t, he is proving all those people right. I told him all those people in his neighborhood that are criticizing him spend most of their days sitting on their porch doing nothing. They were sitting on that same porch 10 years ago and they’ll be on that same porch in 10 more, but that he has the opportunity for a life better than that. Only he loses if he doesn’t go to school.

He needs to be an example to his younger brothers. He wants to make something of his life and he needs an education to achieve his goals. He needs to be able to provide for a family one day and give them with a better life and more opportunities than he has had. That he couldn’t change the past but can decide what he wants to make of the future.

It has been a couple weeks so I don’t even remember exactly what I said but those are some examples. I don’t know what stuck. Maybe nothing, I was saying all of this in broken Spanish after all. Probably nothing, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t really matter what I said as much as that I was saying it. I think what made the difference was that I cared enough to say something, that I cared enough to encourage him, that I told him he was capable. I think he was desperate to hear that. But as Julin left that day, I didn’t know if he would go back.

On Monday I visited Julin in Los Robles. I chatted him up a bit before asking how school was. He lit up. He told me school was great and that the school is going to let him go to 7th grade in the spring. He thanked me and told me if it wasn’t for me he wouldn’t have gone back. I told him that he deserved all the credit, that I could do all the talking I wanted, but only he could make the decision to go back and that I was proud of him. I took it all with a grain of salt until I talked to Julin’s teacher later that day and got the same report. Wow, God is good.

In the end, God just put me in the right place at the right time and he used me as the tool to touch one of his children and that feels awesome. I feel so honored but yet humbled. I know it wasn’t my wisdom that made a difference but God’s love pouring into this young man. Please keep Julin in your prayers. He is back in school and over one large mountain but has a lot of school and a lot of life to go.

Answered Prayer

On Wednesday I asked you all to pray for two of our players, that God would draw them closer to him, humble them and bring them into dependence on him as they got closer to signing with a pro team. Since they weren’t planning on eating dinner the night before one of the biggest days of their lives, I took one to dinner and our coach took the other. As I walked to his house, the skies were ominous and appeared ready downpour at any moment. I wondered to myself whether being out at night in a bad neighborhood with a storm brewing could possibly be a good idea, probably not. However, the rain held off and we arrived safely at the sandwich shop. 30 minutes later we emerged with full bellies and still no rain. Then the heavens opened, and we ran. On the way to the sandwich shop, we had passed by my church and seen that there was a service in progress. I shouted to him to run to the church which was a block way.

As we entered the church wet and under-dressed, I couldn’t help but my smile to myself. Thank you Father. It just felt like we were supposed to be there. I felt him telling us, there is going to be sun and there is going to be rain and come whatever weather there may be, I am here. When it rains, I’m here to protect you. I’m your safe port in the storm. Draw close to me. Whatever happens tomorrow I’m here. And when the rains stop, don’t forget me. When all your dreams come true, don’t forget me. And if they don’t, I’m still here and I love you.

As ominous as the skies were, I’m pretty sure it only rained long enough to get us running and settled comfortably in the church. Then it stopped. Coincidence, I think not?

Criticize This Post, I Dare You!

We have a player in I Love Baseball named Filleral (good luck trying to pronounce that if you don’t speak Spanish). He is only 14 but he is big and fast, a tremendous athlete. Mentally though, he is a 14 year old. He is still goofy. He isn’t always focused. Filleral gets singled out a lot at practice for goofing off, not paying attention or slacking. If he didn’t have such tremendous potential, he would probably get away with more.

As I watched this occurring again today (he didn’t feel the need today to finish his drills through the last cone or sometimes the last couple), it reminded me that in life we are hardest on those we believe in the most. We push them. We make them test their limits. Honestly, we hold them to a different standard. A different person doing the same thing might get ignored or might even get a pat on the back. They are doing their best.

I think that is why I crave feedback. I crave more than just a good job or okay. I want to know someone believes in me enough to push me and not let me settle for less than I’m capable of. When someone isn’t telling me what I can do better, it basically says you’ve peaked or I don’t care enough to push you. You can’t get any better. This is as good as you are going to get. Oh but criticism, constructive or otherwise, screams you can do better! You have what it takes! I think you have more in you! I believe in you!

That may not always be what is heard in the moment and we need to speak a wise blend of encouragement, criticism and love, but I’ll trade criticism any day for the alternative. Pats on the back along the way are nice, but if you don’t reach your goal, what good were they? You are left to sit and wonder, what if I pushed just a little harder? What if I went just a little further past my comfort zone? Did I leave something on the table? I don’t ever want to live with those questions.

The worst thing in the world is to hear nothing (I guess being told you flat out can’t do it would be worse but that might inspire you to prove them wrong. Nothing makes you think, “It doesn’t matter. Nobody will notice anyway.”). Criticism means at least someone took the time and energy to say something. Fine, okay or good are only one step up from nothing. I crave detail. What did I do well? What did I do poorly? And that is why my love language is feedback. I know it isn’t one of the “official” love languages, but it is kind of a nice mix and derivation of a couple that speaks to me.

Random kind of related story: I remember during my senior season of college football, it was getting toward the end of the year and our record wasn’t very good. Our defensive line coach said something to the effect of seniors enjoy the time you have left, you aren’t going to get any better and young guys keep working and preparing for next year. Everything in me screamed no! I have more! I can be better! Don’t limit me! He was wrong. I got better every single day until the last time I put pads on and I think I improved more during those last couple weeks than at any other point in my career. Sad to think that when I was the best I had ever been I had to stop.

Baseball Can Save Lives

For the most part I Love Baseball is working with kids that want to be baseball players. We are trying to address some of the problems that are created by young men dropping out of school and leaving home to pursue their dream of baseball glory. We firmly believe that we can replace the negatives that often come along with the pursuit of this dream with positives that are going to open doors for them and develop godly men who will be leaders who can transform their communities whether they ever play a day in the big leagues or not. Even though we view baseball as a tool to work with these kids, it is easy to sometimes view baseball as the problem or the culprit. Their is certainly plenty of blame to go around for the problems down here and part of the blame does go to the culture and systems that have developed around baseball in the Dominican. The reality though is that there is massive potential to do good and change lives through baseball and my favorite I Love Baseball player story really gets to the heart of that.

My favorite story in the I Love Baseball program isn’t about a baseball player who discovered there is more to life than just playing baseball. It is the story of a young man with no parents and no plans or dreams of becoming a baseball player. A young man who literally traded our coach his machete for a pair of cleats and a glove. Baseball game him a purpose and direction. Baseball gave him a family and he has become an amazing young man. I look forward to sharing more of his story with you as I get to know him better. His story reminds us of the redemptive quality of sports. How athletics can be a positive outlet for youths that keeps them off the street and teaches them about teamwork, sportsmanship, dedication and hard work. We may not forget that side of athletics in the States where sports had that kind of positive influence on may of our lives, but here in the Dominican, where youth sports is big business and the lessons and associations that go along with them can often be massively negative, it can be easy to look at baseball as the enemy. It isn’t. Baseball can save lives.

Why I Love Baseball Works

Kids are wiling to do anything to play baseball. They will drop out of school. They will leave their families and friends behind and move 3 1/2 hours away from home to train and give themselves the best opportunity to get signed. They will take steroids. They will try to use voodoo to curse other players. Conversely if we tell them what they need to do to get the best training possible is go to school and do well, perform community service, participate in bible study, learn English and be mentored, they will do that to. That is why I Love Baseball works and along the way these kids lives are transformed and their worlds opened to new opportunities and possibilities.

St. Paddy’s Day Dash

The second I Love Baseball Ironman event was a success!! We had a great turnout of 32 people wearing I Love Baseball shirts at the St Patrick’s Day Dash on March 15th.The Streets were filled with green St. Patrick’s Day costumes and I Love Baseball shirts. “I would have been so impressed and encouraged with the great turnout if it was a normal day, but it was probably the worst weather to be outside running. It was snowing, windy., raining, and COLD!!! And everyone was still there supporting ILB and having a great time. Thanks to all!” said Brian after the run.

The next I Love Baseball Ironman event that we will be running will be the Beat the Bridge in Seattle on May 17th at 8 AM at Husky Stadium. We’ll send out more info as the race approaches. We hope the weather will be a little nicer this time.

Jingle Bell Dash

Last Sunday Brian ran his second official Ironman event. However this time he was accompanied and supported by a small following of friends. Together the group ran the 5k Jingle Bell Dash at somewhat of a slowed down pace (9 min miles) compared to Brian’s usual pace of 5:42, rumor has it that this was due to one “out of shape” ILB director. After the run Brian said, “This was a great event to slow down and enjoy all of the surroundings. There was an abundance of fun costumes, holiday spirit, and even a little snow! It was fun having other friends and supporters of I Love Baseball come out to help the cause. I am excited to get more people at events in the future to raise more awareness and get people out enjoying this great sport.”

The next event Brian will be participating in will be the Henry Wienhards St Patrick’s Day Dash on March 15th. Brian says would love to get 20 people participating with him for the race. If you are interested in running with us send us an email (benjamin@ilovebaseball.org) and we’ll get you the details.

ILB Ironman Event

The first I Love Baseball Ironman event took place yesterday at the Seattle Marathon. Brian Bauer is training for the Coeur d’Alene Ironman next June to help raise money and awareness for the ILB. Along the way Brian is participating in several training events to help achieve these goals. After Brian completed his first event, the 26.2 mile course at the Seattle Marathon, he said “it was a beautiful course, with great weather. All of the supporters and spirited runners were so uplifting. This was a great stepping stone, but it came apparent today that I have a long ways to go before the full Ironman in June (smiling).” Brian Completed the race in 3hours, 27 minutes, 24 seconds was very pleased with the results of the first I Love Baseball Ironman event.

During Brian’s training leading up to the Ironman in June, he will be covering 4,291 miles! The exact distance it would take Brian to run, bike, and swim from his home in Seattle all the way to Barahona, Dominican Republic. And yes, during Brians training he will be swimming the 160 miles necessary to cross the Caribean Ocean from Key West, FL to Havana, Cuba (95 miles) and once again from Baracoa, Cuba to Mole, Haiti (65 miles). Brians goal is to raise 1$ for ever mile he covers during his training.