Sunday, August 12, 2007

THE NEAT FRIENDS YOU MAKE ALONG THE WAY

I was spending my annual week in baseball camp with the St. Louis Cardinal old timers two winters ago. We were in their Spring Training facility at Jupiter, Florida. I had just begun the infield drills when I sprinted over to retrieve a foul ball. I stepped in a hole and my knee twisted. Down I went. Oh, the pain was sorta strong but I did not want to acknowledge anything being awry.

My team manager loaded me up on a golf cart and Whitey Herzog drove me to the training room where the team physicians began probing. How badly I wanted them to put a wrap on it and send me back out, but no such luck. I could not walk and eventually had surgery.

However, I did have a good thing happen (it always does when watching for God to make His move). A present day player who had been a special friend for about four years passed through the training room while I was stretched out on the table. We always seemed to find at least one surprise occasion each camp where I would turn some corner and there he would be in Cardinal camp getting ready for the season.

He came over and sat on my table. Terry, what have you done? How special it was he would take the time to attend to me. I could tell he was disappointed for me. He stayed awhile, wished me luck, and then disappeared into the workout gym the next room over.

Thursday he was called up from Triple A Memphis to the Bigs; this time as an outfielder instead of a pitcher. He slugged a game-winning home run that night and then hit two home runs Saturday. Rick Ankiel had earlier faltered as a star big league pitcher. Rather than quitting, he fought his way back through the minor league ranks as a slugger and is now enjoying Disney-like heroics.

I am happy for Rick and especially happy God linked our paths these last few years.

7 comments:

Jim Cooke said...

I wanted to say "poor" Terry as I read the beginning of your post, but that sure was negative for me to think! It was probably my jealousy that you go to a big league old timers camp and I only wish I could. Maybe someday I will go to my own. One of my mother's brothers was a big Cardinal fan, and lived in St. Louis for a very long time. Why I did not go there back when he was living to watch practically my favorite game puzzles me. There are many opportunities we pass on for some reason or another, but we need to be thankful for all that God blesses us with while we are here on earth. Seeing your Rick Ankiel story reminds me of being able to coach one of Rick's teammates he had back in 2001 for the Johnson City Cardinals. Matt Thomas graduated from Weatherford High School in Texas back in 1997. I coached him two different years at private schools before he went to Weatherford. Matt experienced arm problems following his High School playing days but was still able to play collegiately at Harding Univ. and then to play some professionally. Currently in the year 2007 I am working with one of Matt's brothers, Barry Thomas a minister at Golf Course Road Church of Christ in Midland, Texas on launching a men's ministry, along with some other outstanding men of the church. It shows how small the world is b/c Barry after having lived in Midland several years ago went back to seminary and he was able to rejoin Brother Ronnie White after they served together in Oklahoma. God works in very amazing ways and again we need to thankful for all he does in our lives. Many things we are able to do for the sake of God's Kingdom are VERY FUN but we also have to persevere and run a marathon not a sprint as we work to further His Kingdom by adding others to His flock. Go to the following website to view baseball cards of Matt and Rick the year they played together:
http://www.jccardinals.com/bbcards/2001bbc.htm
W L ERA G SV IP H R ER BB SO

Ankiel, Rick ....
5 3 1.33 14 0 87.2 42 20 13 18 158
Thomas, Matt ....
4 2 4.68 20 0 25.0 23 17 13 7 22
I too am excited to see Rick Ankiel back in the Bigs and he surely persevered to get back where he was as a 19 year old sensation. God Bless you all, Jim Cooke

jim cooke said...

Brother Terry, you will probably enjoy this site
http://getupbaby.net/?cat=40

jim cooke again said...

Terry, I love your site and I thought I would share one more link for you and your readers. It is Rick Ankiel's stats as a major leaguer before he went back to the minors. They are going to have to restart it. Baseball-almanac is also fun to go to for any baseball fan. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/players/player.php?p=ankieri01 - have fun

Greg said...

Cool! I saw the highlights on ESPN, but had no idea there was a connection to you. Makes it even more interesting to me.

craig said...

Terry, I love reading your stories about people you've met and how you encourage them and how they change you too.

Grace and peace.

jackie chesnutt said...

I love sports and great sports stories of those who overcome hurdles. Ankiel's is one of the really good ones. Thanks for sharing this, Terry.

I do have one question, however. I realize the value of hyperbole for preachers, but you did say that you 'sprinted'?

Take care - I love you.

Doug said...

I waiting for the Rick Ankiel story to be picked up by a Hollywood script. What an awesome story.