Hugh Poland is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, and has utilized many of these illustrations as a minister in churches in Texas for 20 years.
Searching for the Soul of the Game
By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Program Director
Today, Major League Baseball raises the curtain on another season of America’s greatest pastime. There will be a dizzying array of pomp, pageantry, and hardball revelry at ballparks near and far, as fathers, sons, and families will pledge their allegiance to another season. Yet for all its extravagance, for better or for worse, the game that has served as a beacon of light during times of uncertainty and strife, now finds itself struggling to re-emerge from a cloud that is casting painfully dark shadows.
As Barry Bonds slugs his way past the Babe in pursuit of Hammerin’ Hank to become baseball’s new all-time home run king, most of baseball nation would prefer to look the other way. It is a sad commentary when a commission is formed whose sole purpose is to not only chase illegal drugs from the game America loves but to smear the player we should be honoring for a mighty achievement. Instead, we are left to ponder not the feats of the mighty but a series of unfortunate “mights”. What might happen if Bonds does surpass Ruth and Aaron? Might an asterisk be placed beside his name in the record books? Might interest wane if it is finally confirmed the game that fans so love is really not the ultimate battle of power, speed, and grace after all?
These are questions that may never be answered with absolute certainty. However, in his new book “Steal Away” from Judson Press, author Hugh Poland shows us a different side of baseball, one that blends America’s greatest game with America’s greatest strength – its spirituality.
This 133 page collection of devotionals draws upon stories past and present to illustrate important life lessons of God’s love by using the common thread of baseball. Poland draws from years of experience as a baseball researcher and pastor to highlight the heroes of the game but more importantly, to highlight life’s ultimate hero, Jesus Christ.
There are devotionals centered around some of Major League Baseball’s greatest teams, the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, the 1960 New York Yankees, and the 2004 Boston Red Sox. In addition, several players past and present share their testimonies including Orel Hershiser, Bernie Carbo, Sal Bando, and Mariano Rivera.
Perhaps “Steal Away’s” greatest strength is its ability to draw upon one of the game’s unique qualities, the art of good storytelling. Baseball play by play announcers are notorious for their ability to paint colorful stories around the game as it is being played. And just as yarn keeps a baseball tightly wound together at its core, so too does a good yarn keep fans immersed in the legends and lore of the game. Poland does so in a flowing, casual style that keeps readers interested throughout.
Ultimately, this book will appeal to baseball fans, sports buffs, or those interested in gaining new insight on Christian living. “Steal Away” does a credible job of stitching together biblical truths and exposing readers to the real soul of baseball.
Where “Steal Away” misses the mark is that it sometimes glosses over some of the more startling details of a players testimony. While the narrative is technically correct I can’t help but wonder why Poland opted to avoid certain player pitfalls. To me, such details only strengthen a player’s story.
I recommend this book for one basic reason. It is a good read packed with important lessons to be absorbed through the foundations of baseball and the Bible. Through a vast knowledge of America’s greatest pastime, Poland weaves together a winning combination of great baseball quotes with various impacting passages of Scripture.
One quote comes from Hall of Famer Christy Matthewson, who pitched for the New York Giants at the turn of the last century. He once said, “You can learn a little from victory. You can learn everything from defeat.”
As a reviewer I can’t help but liken “Steal Away” to this very telling quote. Readers will be encouraged by the stories Poland presents, each one designed to draw ultimate victory from the sometimes humbling lessons learned from losing.
As the 2006 season gets underway, it seems as though Major League Baseball is straining to reclaim its foothold with fans from every corner of the world. People want to enjoy the game their father’s taught them to love, unencumbered by rumor, innuendo, or scandal. Hugh Poland’s “Steal Away” will help you to do just that and strengthen your faith in the process.
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