Building Men Through Baseball
About the Guest
Can sports be a healthy part of a young man's development? Sure! But only to an extent. Randy Stinson tells how his sports-loving family opted out of baseball for 18 months in order to stretch themselves in other ways: through mission trips and other gospel outreaches. Randy explains why it's important to him to give his kids a big vision of the world.
Randy StinsonRandy Stinson is the Professor of Leadership and Family Ministry and the Senior Vice President for Academic Administration and Provost at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He also serves as the Senior Fellow of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. A recognized authority on the subject of biblical manhood and womanhood, Stinson is a regular conference speaker on the subjects of raising masculine sons and feminine daughters, parenting, marriage, and men’s...more
Randy Stinson tells how his sports-loving family opted out of baseball for 18 months in order to give his kids a big vision of the world.
Building Men Through Baseball
Bob: Randy Stinson has a son who plays Little League baseball. That provides Randy, as a dad, with some teachable moments. In fact, Randy remembers one particular evening.
Randy: So, he’s a very good pitcher. His nickname is “The Gun Show.” He comes in—bases are loaded. He can’t find the plate; and he walks player, after player, after player. It was excruciating for him / excruciating for me. The game soon ends, and we are on the losing end of it. We get in the car. I said: “Son, here’s the deal. I’m going to ask you to do something that is not going to seem normal; but I think that we ought to pray and thank God for that moment because what that moment produced in your life is something that God loves and honors—that is called humility.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, May 25th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
We’re going to talk today about how dads can take advantage of teachable moments to raise boys who become men. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. There are days when I walk in here, and I just go, “I think it kind of smells like a locker room in here”; you know? It just has that—[Laughter]
Dennis: Are you saying our guest—[Laughter]
Bob: Not the guest!
Dennis: —smells like he’s been working out, Bob?
Bob: It smells a little bit like you’ve been working out with him; you know?—[Laughter] —both of you kind of have a little bit of that [sniffs] smell to you today.
Dennis: We’re going to be talking about manhood today and about calling men to stand up and—
Bob: I thought this was interesting—you wrote a book calling men to step up, and our guest wrote a book calling them to stand up.
I guess he thought they were farther down than you. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, you know, they have to stand up before they can step up.
Bob: There you go.
Dennis: So, really, Randy Stinson has done us a service here in creating this book, A Guide to Biblical Manhood. Randy, welcome to the broadcast.
Randy: Thanks, honored to be here.
Dennis: Randy is the Dean of the School of Church Ministries and Vice President for Academic Innovation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the father of—count them—seven kids—
Bob: Yes, he beat you.
Dennis: —three young men. He and his wife Danna have been for married for more than 20 years. Randy, you know, you and I have talked a lot about issues of manhood and womanhood over the years. You’re really passionate about the need for men to just be men today.
Randy: That’s right. I think that men are the most under-leveraged resource in the church today. They’re not being called out / they’re not being given high expectations.
It’s weakened the church / it’s weakened the home.
Dennis: Why do you think that’s the case?
Randy: Well, I think it starts in Genesis 3, the fall. One of the tendencies of men is to be passive—is to step down instead of stepping up / to lie down instead of standing up. I think that one of the reasons that this happens is it’s easier to reach women and children. I think our local churches have done a disservice by not doing the extra work required to reach men.
Bob: Now, that’s an interesting statement, “It’s easier to reach women and children.” Is that because of the way we’re presenting the message of the gospel or what?
Randy: We’re not giving men a man-sized challenge at church. What we need to be doing in our churches is giving men assignments that a man knows requires manhood—something big, something that involves risks, something that involves a problem to be solved.
When they work together, when they sacrifice together, when they solve a problem together—that’s how men build relationships.
We’re putting them in these rooms like it’s an eHarmony for men and asking them to trust one another and relate to one another. That’s not how they do it. We need to get them active / give them a challenge:
Elderly women in your church that don’t have heat—it’s winter: “Go make them have heat.”
“I don’t know how we’re going to do that. I don’t know.”
“Go figure it out. Put your money together / pawn your watch—I don’t care.”
You put three or four men on a task like that—after they’ve sacrificed together, reached in their own pockets together, solved a problem together, helped a widow together—those guys trust each other. Now, what happens at the coffee shop afterward is meaningful ministry accountability.
Dennis: You’re actually doing something like this with your family; specifically, your sons. You and I were talking before we came in the studio. You had read my book, Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood.
In my book, I asked the question, “What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done in your life?” You answered the question, but you took it a step further. It’s really allowing you to do the very thing you are talking about that men need to do today. You’re calling your sons to something specific to be courageous about; right?
Randy: That’s correct. I asked my boys, “What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?” It’s a gripping question / it’s a great conversation starter. They had some good answers to that, and it made me get them to sit down. I involved my oldest daughter as well. I said: “Write down the top ten things you want to do in the next five years. If there’s something you want to see, a place you want to go, an animal—a deer you want to kill / an elk—just put it down there, and let’s see what that involves.”
So, they did it. We sat down, and we’re a big baseball family. We have been playing travel baseball—both of my boys are exceptional athletes / very good baseball players. The list was incredible—
—mission trips they wanted to take / things they wanted to do.
I sat down and looked at them all; and I said: “Here’s the problem. We’re not going to be able to do any of this—not one of these things are we going to be able to do. The reason is because we are spending all of our discretionary time and almost all of our discretionary money playing baseball. So, let’s do something here about this, and we’re calling it ‘The Year of Living Courageously.’” It’s really more like “The Year of Living Reasonably,” but that wasn’t quite as compelling. [Laughter]
So, we’ve mapped it out. We made the decision in August to take18 months off of baseball. Honestly, it has been a life-changing decision; and we haven’t even done anything yet—just knowing what we’re going to do. We’re going to be in several different countries. I’m taking my oldest son to Cameroon and Belize. My daughter is going to Belize and Haiti. My other son is going to Belize, and I’m taking him to the Ukraine in the fall. It’s been a relief to our family—our conversations are different / we have a lot more downtime.
Just to be honest with you—I’ve read 1 Corinthians 10 about idolatry. Every time I’ve read it / every time I’ve heard a sermon about it, I ask my wife, “What do you think of every time you hear a sermon on idolatry?” I said, “Here’s what I think: ‘It’s not me.’” Every time I hear it, I always think, “It’s not me”; but 1 Corinthians 10 is saying it’s all of us—it is us.
Randy: I was humiliated and embarrassed when I cast a vision to my boys. They said: “Let’s just do it. Let’s do it, Dad. Let’s do it.” I was humiliated. It was more difficult for me to quit than it was for them.
Bob: You like baseball pretty well.
Randy: I love baseball, and I love watching them play. They love playing, but I don’t have time to psychoanalyze myself to know what it was—but I knew there was something I wasn’t getting out of that that wasn’t good.
Dennis: He, actually, brought me a baseball signed by—
Randy: —David Eckstein.
Dennis: —David Eckstein who was—wasn’t he the—
Randy: World Series MVP.
Bob: Yes, for the Cardinals a couple years ago.
Bob: He brought that to you?!
Dennis: He brought it to me, and—Oh, you didn’t get one, Bob? [Laughter] Oh, I’m sorry!
Bob: Man, oh, man!
Dennis: You’re a Cardinal fan too. I forgot about that. [Laughter]
Well, going back, though, to what Randy’s talking about here—what he’s modeling is what he’s talking about. As fathers and as men, what we want to do is—we want to get about a task—something that demands tension against the muscle. In this case, it’s the faith muscle—
Dennis: —of stepping out and being courageous, and going to another country and serving people, and taking your sons with you and having that experience of sweating together, and making an impact for Jesus Christ. I mean, it’s not that baseball is bad—we’re not saying that at all.
Dennis: You’re just saying: “For your family, for this season right now, you’re taking 18 months off—
Randy: That’s right.
Dennis: —“and we’re calling a players’ strike here.”
Randy: That’s right: “The Year of Living Courageously.” [Laughter]
Bob: Why do you think this is important for your boys to become men? I mean, a lot of folks would say: “Hey, a team sport is where I learned how to be a man. Having a great coach speaking into my life / team work—that was fundamental manhood training for me.”
Randy: We are definitely a sports-oriented family. I think sports is a crucial / maybe even a critical tool for a father to have in place so he can observe his sons in all sorts of character-building situations. So, I’m not saying not to use sports—I’m not sure what we’re going to do at the end of the 18 months—but it hasn’t helped us with a vision for the whole world. So, this is just another part of my fathering strategy—is that, when these boys leave my home, they’ve got to have more than toughness, resiliency, and godliness. I need them to have a big vision for the whole world. One of the ways that we have the means to do it is to take them there—not everybody can do that.
It just became an insurmountable conflict in my heart and, consequently, in the boys’ hearts that we were unable to do both.
Bob: I wanted to ask you—because on the front cover of your book, A Guide to Biblical Manhood, one of the things it says is “How to mold men through baseball.”
Randy: That’s correct.
Bob: So, here you are, taking time off from baseball. Tell me about the benefits of baseball and team sports in terms of “What does that do to help a boy become a man?”
Randy: Well, baseball, in particular, is a sport of choice for us—partially, because there is so much subjectivity to the game. I’m not for the replay.
Bob: Even with some of those blown calls?
Randy: I mean: “Just let it happen. That is life.”
Dennis: Hey, I’m going to tell you something—I know a guy who would take the replays. His name is Todd Worrell. [Laughter] He was the Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year in Game 6 of the World Series. Clearly, the guy was out—
—the Cardinals won—but the call went against them and they ended up losing the series.
Dennis: So, there would be those who would argue with you about that!
Randy: There are plenty of guys that would, and I’m okay with that. The subjectivity of the game teaches all sorts of things about unfairness, and you can observe your boys in that moment. They strike out—it was a ball, but the ump called it a strike. They’re pitching—it was a strike, but the ump called it a ball. They miss a ball—and it’s all right there—everybody is focused on it / you don’t even have to see the replay tape—you know who missed the ball / you know who struck out.
What happens is, as a dad, I get to see them right there in that moment. Because of the close proximity that you have to the game and to the dugout, I can even make mid-game character corrections. I can pull them aside and say: “Uh-uh. That’s not how we do it. That’s not how you handle this situation.”
Bob: In terms of attitude—you are saying?
Randy: Attitude: “Did they throw the helmet?” “Are they on the mound—and they are throwing ball after ball and they can’t find the plate—and they are pouting, and I can see them pouting?”
I mean—just the humility that it cultivates.
One time, Gunnar, my oldest son—
Bob: —you named him Gunnar—
Randy: I named him Gunnar, and he is absolutely—
Bob: —before he was ever pitching, you named him that?
Randy: It was just destined to happen. [Laughter] Yes. Part of the predestined—[Laughter]—so, he’s a very good pitcher. His nickname is “The Gun Show.” He comes in—bases are loaded. He can’t find the plate; and he walks player, after player, after player. It was excruciating for him / excruciating for me. The coach graciously pulls him out, and the game soon ends. We’re on the losing end of it.
We get in the car. I said, “Gunnar”—and he’s 12 at the time. This is the worst thing that’s ever happened, in his mind. I said: “Son, here’s the deal. I’m going to ask you to do something that is not going to seem normal; but I think that we ought to pray and thank God for that moment because what that moment produced in your life is something that God loves and honors—that is called humility.
“The alternative is pridefulness, and pridefulness invites the active opposition of God. So, what I want you to do is—let’s agree that was excruciating / it was ugly—but let’s also agree that moments of humility-building are a gift from God because God loves you and doesn’t want to be actively opposed to you. The moments that He brings into your life like this create a scenario where He actually can and will bless you in some other way.”
So, baseball—other sports offer those kind of moments as well—but there’s just nothing in my mind quite like the game of baseball.
Dennis: I’m reliving a moment when I was coaching my boys, who played on the same team. I think my sons were good athletes—we just ended up in a league that was kind of stacked against us, if you know what I mean.
Randy: I do.
Dennis: I think after we had lost 12 in a row—every team in the league had beaten us twice—and I had—
Bob: That all can’t all be the umpire there! [Laughter]
Dennis: I had enough humility—thank you. [Laughter] It was humiliation; alright? I almost got thrown out of the game. In other words, as the coach—
Bob: You were the head of FamilyLife at the time; right?
Dennis: You didn’t have to say that! [Laughter] We could have made this pre-historic, you know—
Dennis: —earlier, but we didn’t do that. Here’s what I had to do at that point—I had to get the team together and apologize to the team, and then, again, to my sons on the way home because I was more than just the coach of the team to them—I was their daddy—
Dennis: —and they had to be embarrassed by their dad’s temper and that I almost got tossed out of the game.
I think, sometimes, we look at the game, and we think of what our sons are going to learn about being a man in the game; when, sometimes, it’s our behavior as fans, or as coaches, or somehow as participants in the sport, where we also need to demonstrate the same kind of humility that we call them to in absorbing a defeat.
Randy: Right, and to not make excuses. One of the rules I put in the book is—the umpires—they’re the ultimate authority in the game. You go with what they call, you can’t look at them in disgust, and you can’t look at them incredulously after a bad call or what you thought was a bad call. It teaches subjection to authority—doing what your coaches say.
One of the biggest challenges for young men in baseball is listening to their base coaches because they want to be wise in their own eyes. They’re rounding second, looking at the ball instead of their base coach. The coach wants them to turn it into a double; and they slow down because they think they couldn’t make it, but the coach is supposed to make those decisions for them. It just has an enormous number of teachable moments and life lessons.
So, we had to take a year-and-a-half off because of the level that we were involved in. We’re going to try to get back, probably, at a lower level. We always want to play. You just don’t have to play at the level with same commitment that we had been playing at.
Bob: Hours, and money, and all of it; right?
Randy: I would be embarrassed to tell you how much money we spent last year and how much time we spent. I’m literally embarrassed to tell you—
Dennis: You know—
Randy: —but it is funding for mission trips—I’ll say that. [Laughter]
Dennis: Randy, one of the things I heard you say, as you made the decision—it actually was more difficult for you to make the decision to take this sabbatical from playing baseball. Was that because you were living out some of your life through your sons?—do you think?
I think there’s always that temptation for a parent to see their kids excel and win the—you know, go to the Little League World Series and win it all and have the applause. It’s back to that idolatry issue. There’s a lesson for us in this as well; right?
Randy: There is no question. I think that a lot of men are trying to relive their childhood through their children, or create a situation they didn’t experience through their children, or in my case—the fact is—baseball—one of the reasons why baseball is declining in America, in terms of recreational leagues, is because you can’t play catch with yourself / you can’t hit grounders to yourself. It requires a dad, typically, to be involved.
My boys are out there excelling. Who does anybody think taught them how to do all that? I did! There’s definitely something in that for me—just to see the reason why they’re excelling is because of my incredible coaching ability—or at least, that’s what I was acting like and telling myself. [Laughter]
There is no question that I do think that a lot of men aren’t doing things for our local churches / in their local churches—at least, partially—because they are participating in an idolatrous situation with their kids. They’re going to do—just like a lot of the times I would do / what I’m saying: “Look, this is a family event. I’m with my boys. What more do you want? Let me list all of the dads that aren’t playing catch with their sons. Let me list all the dads that…”
It can all feel family-related / and we’re eating dinners at picnic tables at the baseball park three nights a week, and we’re having family time; but I think I got—I was a little like the frog in the kettle. The heat kept getting turned up and turned up. Before I knew it, I was being boiled alive.
Bob: You know, I am concerned that there is a decline in character among young men / older men.
Bob: It just feels like the whole issue of godly character has been neglected as a part of what we’re supposed to be all about.
In a culture where everything is relative, nobody wants to impress young men with specific character qualities. Part of getting a man to stand up is to come back around and say, “There are character qualities that define a wise, mature man.” We need to affirm that, and we need to embrace that.
Dennis: And we need a playbook. We have to have a playbook—an authoritative playbook that spells out what those character qualities are. I believe the best one is the Bible. Just a great word here, for young men or older men, is found in Paul’s writing to the church at Corinth, 1 Corinthians, Chapter 16: 13 and 14—I’ve quoted this many times about being a man: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith”—there you’ve got the standing again, there, Randy—“act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”
I just love that passage because it is an aromatic blend—
Bob: Yes, we’re back to the locker room smell here; right? [Laughter]
Dennis: We’re back to the smell—it’s the aroma of love, of courage, of standing strong, and of not being passive—
Dennis: —but engaging in life and being a man—not being a passive wimp and let somebody else do it for you—but piercing the darkness and making a difference in this world. That’s the kind of men we need today.
Bob: I knew that this is what was going to happen—you’d get Dennis all riled up because the theme of manhood is something that Dennis’s thought a little bit about—you have the book, Stepping Up / you have the video series, Stepping Up®.
We’ve seen a lot of guys go through that material. We agree with you, Randy, this is one of the issues that we have got to be taking seriously and being intentional about.
Let me encourage our listeners—Dennis’s book, Stepping Up; the video series, Stepping Up: A Call To Courageous Manhood; the book that you [Randy] have written, A Guide of Biblical Manhood—we have all of this on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, along with other resources to help men think more carefully about their assignment as husbands, as dads, and just what it means to be a man who is pursuing Christ.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about Randy Stinson’s book, A Guide to Biblical Manhood; Dennis Rainey’s book, Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood; the video series we’ve created around that book—all of it is available at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you have any questions or you’d like to order any of these resources from us—1-800-”F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” That’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-”F” as in family, “L” as in life, then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, you stop and think about this: “When men assume their responsibilities as men, that is foundational for a marriage to thrive and to be strong.” I’m thinking about that because all this year we are celebrating an anniversary and lots of anniversaries. It’s our 40th anniversary as a ministry. Over the last 40 years, we have had the opportunity to see hundreds of thousands of couples celebrate more and more anniversaries because of the work that God has done through the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
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Be sure to be back with us again tomorrow. Randy Stinson is going to be here again. Hope you can join us as well as we continue talking about boys becoming men.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. See you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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