Does God Actually Show Himself Through Home Runs?
Even the casual baseball fan has felt the deep sadness surrounding the recent death of Jose Fernandez, a 24-year-old superstar pitcher for the Miami Marlins. Universally recognized for a broad grin, charismatic personality, and devotion to those around him, Fernandez seemed to have exuded zeal, humility, and hopefulness almost constantly.
— Joey Hayden (@_joeyhayden) September 25, 2016
So it came as no surprise to Dee Gordon, the Marlins’ second baseman, that his 160-pound frame was able to smash a home run to the upper deck in Miami’s first game following Fernandez’ death. Gordon himself, who was visibly moved to tears as he rounded the bases, said afterward:
I ain’t never hit a ball that far, even in BP (batting practice). I told the boys, ‘If you all don’t believe in God, you better start.’ For that to happen today, we had some help.
— RotoQL (@rotoqlapp) September 26, 2016
Gordon, understandably the farthest thing from a power hitter, had only hit eight home runs in his six-year career prior to that at-bat.
Just Tuesday, a similar story emerged with the St. Louis Cardinals’ Aledmys Diaz, a childhood friend of Fernandez in Cuba. Diaz had just hung a tribute jersey honoring Fernandez on the wall of the dugout when Cardinals’ catcher Bryan Pena, a fellow Cuban, said to him “Dude, you’re going to hit a homer today.” Sure enough, in Diaz’ second at-bat of the night, a high fly ball with the bases loaded sailed over the outfield wall — it was the first grand slam of Diaz’ career.
— All STLCards (@AStlcards) September 28, 2016
Pena echoed Gordon after the game, saying, “I’m not going to try to quote him, but if you don’t believe in God, you better start believing. Because what happened today was something special.”
Granted, the name of God is invoked often in times of great tragedy, and for good reason. Who better to turn to in the times of greatest trial, when life very apparently is revealed to be outside of our control?
But it’s a valid question: Would God really show Himself through a home run?
I mean, what does the Creator of the Universe care for baseball? Isn’t he, like, busy keeping all the planets in orbit or something?
If we consider just who God is, though, the answer becomes quite obvious. Christians understand God to be the creator of everything, so not only does it include the large, monumental things like the earth, the sky, and the sea. God is responsible even for the tiniest of things: a snail’s shell, an eyelash, or a leaf from a tree.
The fact that none of this needs to exist, and that such perfection could never have come to be by accident, it necessarily means that what exists is willed — wanted — into existence by a divine Creator, who we call “God.” Finally, we recognize that God Himself is perfect, and is in need of nothing. So we can easily conclude, given that doing something for another in an entirely selfless way is called “love”, that God indeed loves all of his creation, and always wills its good.
Folded into that are all the good things created by human beings, the pinnacle of God’s creation, and ultimately our delight in those good things.
And so, our answer is a resounding “Yes!” As it turns out, God is a baseball fan.
Even further, God is with us in the midst of our suffering. As a result, He is quick to offer consolation and hope that out of suffering can come even the greatest of goods, as in the Resurrection of His divine Son.
In the same way that God loves even the smallest of His creation, it’s reasonable to think that even the smallest, most insignificant events — like a home run — can be dripping with meaning, if only to bring us a small piece of hope in the darkest of times.
Perhaps no human being in history suffered as much as the Virgin Mary, on the occasion of Jesus’ crucifixion and death. And it was precisely her love — her perfect charity — for her divine Son that allowed her to suffer so deeply, so it’s uniquely providential that, before going to St. Brendan’s Catholic Church for the vigil and funeral, the remains of Jose Fernandez were brought for a blessing to Miami’s Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba.
Jose Fernandez lived a life initially fraught with hardship and pain. He lived in poverty for much of his life, then had to try three times before successfully defecting to the United States, and on the successful trip he saved his own mother from drowning. His teammates and those who knew him were quick to point out that his fame had not extinguished a spirit of humility and gratitude for the blessings in his life.
In this, we’re reminded of Romans 12:2, where St. Paul writes:
Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.
And so we pray for the soul of Jose Fernandez, giving thanks for his witness to joy and hope, that the Lord might welcome him home to glory.
Our Lady of Charity, pray for us!