“If you don’t believe in God, you might as well start.”
That was Dee Gordon’s response to his first home run of the season. But, this was far from an ordinary at bat or a casual comment. Gordon was the Marlins’ first batter of the game, and according to him, he had never come close to hitting a ball far enough for a home run even in batting practice. So, the odds were stacked against him, but that was not what made this hit so special.
All the Marlins were wearing Jose Fernandez’s number sixteen on their jerseys in honor of their twenty-four year old teammate who had passed away the day before in a tragic boating accident. The emotions were raw in the melancholy pregame tribute, and the players were just trying to survive the game. A left-handed batter, Gordon lined up righty for the first pitch to pay tribute to Fernandez before switching to his natural side where his bat provided a glimpse of hope for this mourning community. When he crossed home plate, Gordon could not hold back the tears as his teammates embraced him.
It is just a hit, and it is just a game. Sure, it is easy to take that narrative and brush aside the meaning of Gordon’s home run. I mean, after all, wouldn’t God concern himself with things more important than our trivial games?
Well, I would argue that God cares about us, and so He will reach out to us in any way He can. And, in this sport where success and progress have such measured results, it seems fitting that God would use that platform to show the world that He is with this community in their grief as He is with all of us in ours.
Personally, I have experienced a similar phenomenon. As a lifelong supporter and former manager of the team, I can confidently say that my mother was the biggest University of Virginia basketball fan I know. Her affection was so great that she would pick her favorite player on the team each year and declare him her “boyfriend.” Joe Harris, Justin Anderson, Malcolm Brogdon, and Anthony Gill were among the lucky few that bore such distinction. I bring all this up because my mother’s viewing ended up being on the same day as Virginia’s Sweet 16 game versus Iowa State. Knowing my mother’s love of the team and all the family and friends that had gathered, my family decided to invite everyone over to watch the game after the wake. We were all hurting, all needing some sign that everything would be okay, that the woman we all loved so desperately and missed so dearly was okay.
Then, UVA jumped out to a double-digit lead before the first television timeout and never looked back.
The point is not that God decided to let Virginia win for the sake of my mom, but that a room full of people who were in need of hope drew closer to God because of that result. He is a good Father, and He reaches out to us when we are most in need of Him. Praise God for His love and faithfulness, and God Bless all the mourners with the healing love and grace that only He can provide.