While he was playing, he was a bit of a throwback to a different era. A time when Major League baseball was a lot less of a business and a bit more of a game. A time when players weren’t nearly as entangled with the likes of agents, endorsements, dieticians and personal trainers. He may have fit in well with the likes of larger-than-life folks, like, Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb, though he didn’t possess that level of talent. His name was John Kruk and his heyday wasn’t so long ago—the 1990’s. As compared to today’s scientifically trained athlete, this mullet wearing Philadelphia Philly looked more like a cross between a big-rig trucker and a pro bowler than a major league baseball player.
I vaguely remember an interview he gave on a talk show years ago. He was relaying to the host, how on one occasion, he received some criticism from a female fan, because she had seen him in the dugout smoking in between innings, during a game. His response to the disappointed fan, “Hey lady, I ain’t no athlete, I’m a baseball player.” Why am I bringing up John Kruk? Well, bear with me on this rabbit trail. It will be long, but the scenery is interesting and eventually we will arrive at a destination and a distinct point.
One of my favorite memories of John Kruk, is of an all-star game that he played in several years back. As you well know, the all-star game pits the most popular players of the American League against the most popular players of the National League. This game took place before interleague play was common. This meant that players that never normally faced off had an opportunity to compete with one another. Well Kruk came up to bat having the unenviable task of facing the most dreaded pitcher in baseball—Randy Johnson. Randy is nick-named “the Big Unit.” He is 6’9” and during his playing days, he hurled a 100+ mph fastball. Now I have never had to face someone who threw over 100 mph, but I did a little catching for my younger brother, who threw in the mid-90 range.
Now, when someone throws that hard, there is a lot of movement on the ball. Sometimes it is hard to decipher where the ball will actually end up. It is unnerving and unsettling to say the least. When Kruk stepped into the batter’s box, it was obvious that he was nervous. After steadying himself and setting up to swing, Johnson let loose a fireball. Kruk jumped out of the batter’s box, like he was taking cover from a shotgun blast. It was a hilarious bit of sports entertainment. Funny thing, it was not a wild pitch, not even close to hitting Kruk, but he wasn’t going to take any chances.
As a 10-year-old, I had a face-off with my own “Big Unit.” His name was Chris Ulmer, and in my mind, he was the king of Ocean View National Little League. He was one of the kids that developed much earlier than the rest of us. He was barrel chested and already had a little bit of fuzz on his top lip. Now I’m sure he did not throw a 100 mph fastball, but he threw a heck of a lot harder than the rest of us. Most of us kids would rather have a cavity drilled at the dentist without Novocain, than have to stand in the batter’s box with Ulmer staring us down from the mound. Now these were the unwritten rules in our league, as I saw them. Whenever you come up against Chris Ulmer, stand as far back in the batters box as you can. Visualize you are somewhere else and think happy thoughts. Lastly, take a couple swings, just to save face. Just a few terrorizing moments to endure and then you would be safely seated back in the dugout.
So, one day I found myself stepping into the batter’s box against Ulmer. The butterflies churned and my knees buckled, but I comforted myself with the knowledge that it would be over soon. Funny thing happened though; I forgot to stay far back in the batter’s box. Chock it up to temporary insanity. I inched up right next to the plate. Ulmer discharged one of his screamers and instead of freaking out, I watched it all the way in, I thrusted with my hips, twisted my shoulders and swung with everything I had. I smacked line drive shot tight into the right-center warning track. I rounded first and landed on second with a stand-up double. I felt big. I felt barrel chested. I felt like I had conquered the king, if only for a day. And now a few other kids had hope.
Esther was a Biblical heroine that had to face a kind of a bigger sort and the stakes were much higher than balls and strikes. Esther was a Jewess; a peasant who lived during the times that the Persian Empire was the big kid on the block. The details of the delightful story are fantastic, so I encourage you to dig into it during your devotional time. For now, I am going to give you a thumbnail sketch. Through the providential hand of God, Esther the peasant, becomes the Queen of the Persians. Esther has a cousin named Mordecai, who uncovers a plot to kill all the Jews. The plot is put together by a satanically scheming, anti-Semitic member of the king’s court named Haman. Mordecai approaches his cousin Esther to convince her that she must talk to the king, so that the plot can be foiled. Sounds easy right? I mean, she is his wife. Well, it wasn’t easy. According to the law of the land, the queen could only approach the king if she was summoned. To do so without permission was punishable by death.
Needless to say, Esther was hesitant. To face the king was to take her life in her hands. In her hesitancy, Mordecai spoke words of challenge to her. God inspired words that gave Esther the courage to do what she needed to do. Mordecai said, “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14) In other words, perhaps this is why God made you queen, to save your people. Want to know the outcome? Ha, Ha, you are going to have to read it. But here is the point. What kings? What difficult situations are you facing? Who do you know that is going down the wrong path and needs to be redirected? Who do you know that does not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and is in danger of Hell? Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Perhaps God has strategically placed you where you are at to save your people.