Youth Baseball In Seattle Is A Big Hit
By John Livingston Clark
You are a parent sitting in the stands watching a youth baseball game. Your son is at bat. Does he hit a game-winning run or strike out, lose the game, and feel humiliated by the team and spectators? Does he come home feeling that winning is all that matters?
In Seattle, Washington, youth baseball is much more than winning games. People come out in droves to hear about life and spiritual values. Jose Rijo-Berger had a professional baseball career as an outfielder. At the young age of 23 he gave it all up to follow God’s directive to start a Christian oriented youth training program. Jose explains his ministry this way. “The frustration that many families experience in organized, youth baseball is countered with the ‘light’ reflected in the Rijo Athletic staffs’ belief in Jesus.” There are no arguments between parents and coaches, destructive displays of behavior are demeaning of kids.
Not only are his participants receiving a solid foundation in the basics of the sport, as indicated by 60 percent going into professional leagues, but they are taking with them life skills and spiritual values. There is prayer before and after games, as well as Bible study and scripture reading. It is interesting that with all of the attention given to spiritual teaching that this program is drawing more non-believers than Christians. The biggest emphasis, however, is telling parents that they should not allow sports to consume them. Jose says to not miss things like family dinners and vacations.
Jose has also written a book entitled, “Relationships Through Sports-Using Athletics To Strengthen Families.” To him baseball is much more than winning games. He is using it as a vehicle to draw families closer together and as an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with his players through team competition, camps, and training sessions. So, what do the kids and parents think about all of this? Ask the people who show up each year – all 10,000 of them!