Thursday, August 18, 2011

10 Commandments of Baseball and the Power of Metaphor


I guess I wasn't surprised when a friend told me that her minister was using baseball as a metaphor for life both spiritual and temporal in his sermons. Our book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball certainly plays on the sports-life metaphor. Of course, as the author points out in the book, "The 10 Commandments of Baseball are no match for the original 10 Commandments for those of us traversing this earth."

Yet, metaphors are important and powerful in teaching and parenting. They run throughout both the New and Old Testaments. I am no Biblical scholar, but for me "The Song of Solomon" would be downright embarrassing if you don't look at it as metaphor. In the New Testament, Jesus uses many parables so it should be no surprise to anyone, either lay or religious, to understand the power of the metaphor, especially when it is well constructed and relates to things that are well known and vital to the audience.

The beauty of something like the 10 Commandments of Baseball is that depending upon your audience, you can direct them from baseball principles to life principles and in church or other religious venues, you can direct them to religious principles.

Why not start with life principles or religious principles you may ask? Well, I think that's certainly one way to operate, but at the same time, in certain audiences, especially younger ones, you have to begin with things that they see, touch, feel, smell and taste. There is nothing new, original, liberal or conservative about using metaphors.

If you talk to kids today about faith, you realize we live in a cynical age--perhaps even more that the 60s and 70s, when many people thought that most everything was irrelevant. Today, so many kids are taught by at least one parent that religious practice is just not practical. So it's not a bad starting point to talk to kids about something that is vital in their physical world and then move towards principles. You have to get their attention first.

Kids like to excel in sports. That seems to be something that we find easy enough to instil in our kids. How are they going to do well? Certainly they need to understand and abide by certain principles first. It was legendary baseball manager Joe McCarthy who penned baseball principles back in 1921--here they are:


1. Nobody ever became a ballplayer by walking after a ball.
2. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.
3. An outfielder who throws back of a runner is locking the barn after the horse is stolen.
4. Keep your head up and you may not have to keep it down.
5. When you start to slide, S-L-I-D-E. He who changes his mind may hav to change a good leg for a bad one.
6. Do not alibi on bad hops. Anyone can field the good ones.
7. Always run them out, you can never tell.
8. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.
9. Do not find too much fault with the umpires. You cannot expect them to be as perfect as you are.
10. A pitcher who hasn’t control, hasn’t anything.

In The 10 Commandments of Baseball, these principles are interestingly explored and illustrated. The author also extends the discussion to talk about how these principles are also metaphors of life lessons. Adults trying to teach children can easily extend these further to spiritual principles as well.

For example, in our book, the author talks at some length about Commandment Number 10. "A pitcher who hasn't control, hasn't anything." The book discusses how some of the greatest pitchers started out wild, but once they got control, they were unstoppable. An expanded discussion talks about the need for athletes to practice self control-- both on and off the field. Athletes who become addicted to drugs and alcohol ruin their chances in competition. Taking it one step further, we see that a person who has no self control is spiritually bankrupt.

If we want to instruct young people then, one can see the power of metaphor. If you a child buys into the 10th Commandment of baseball at practice, the next step is obvious: just as you achieve success in sports by learning control, that same self control will serve you in other ways. The young person learns the lesson at the ground level and then having the learner apply it to other areas of their life should be natural. Gradually, they can see how the religious principles they are learning are indeed practical and relevant.

Sports principles, symbolized by the weather vane shown, can remind or lead us to life and spiritual principles that give our life direction.

Copyright 2011 Sporting Chance Press