By Tony Rankin

Recently I had the chance to attend the Red’s Fantasy Baseball Camp at their spring practice facility in Goodyear, AZ. They treated us like professional players for eight days. I was coached by former Red’s players, learned skills from them, and played double-headers each day with guys my age. In fact, I struck out on a curve ball thrown by an 82-year-old pitcher. It started at my head and broke to the outside corner of the plate.  You’re right- I just stood there.

In game #2 one of my coaches, Rawley Eastwick a MVP relief pitcher for the 70s Big Red Machine said, “Rankin you’re catching this game!” I put on the gear and was ready for the challenge. In the 5th inning the umpire said, “I can tell you love catching. I can see it in your eyes. How long has it been since you caught a game?” I stood up and took my mask off and said, “Forty-eight (48) years!” I’ve never stopped loving the position or the game.

Here are a few lessons that we can learn about life and the COVID-19 pandemic from the game of baseball. As a catcher I learned that every ball does not come straight down the middle of the plate. If that was so, everything would be easy to catch and hit. One month ago, we began to get word about the horrid pandemic and all of a sudden changes in finances, employment, school, prom, social distance, and relating to others. Nothing is predictable anymore. I also learned that to effectively be a catcher you must drop and block the wild pitch, curve or knuckleball, and the ball that bounces in the dirt in front of the plate. Anticipating change, loss, emotional struggles, and irritability require us to react, respond, and adjust. I also had to learn that you can’t blame the pitcher. A good catcher does whatever is necessary to do his job, help the team, and take care of every situation. During these days of threats of illness and maybe even death, in these moments of fear of the unknown, and the unknown of the economy, peace, or cures- Don’t blame God. Instead hold on to Joshua 1:8-9. People will be able to see it in your eyes.

View photos from Tony’s trip to the Red’s Fantasy Baseball Camp below: