Sunday afternoon, August 29, 2010, I had the great blessing of being part of the seventh Faith Day Third Coast Sports has organized with the Atlanta Braves. For those of you that don’t know, Faith Day consists of a regular season baseball game followed by a full concert on the field by a Christian music artist and a testimony or two by one of the team’s Christian players. Over the last five years in Atlanta we’ve had amazing concerts by Aaron Shust, The Afters, Jeremy Camp, Barlow Girl, MercyMe, Steven Curtis Chapman, Matthew West and this year, Kutless. Braves players who have been willing to share their testimony include John Smoltz (three times), Matt Diaz (four times), Sid Bream, Chris Reitsma, Jeff Francoeur, Horacio Ramirez, Ryan Langerhans and Javier Vazquez. I serve as the emcee for the event.
This year was supposed to be no different. God had another plan in mind.
As we got to the week before the event, we still hadn’t solidified anyone from the Braves to speak. The Braves are still blessed with a number of guys who are striving to serve the Lord. We were just striking out on someone that would be available Sunday afternoon. Matt emailed me and told me he had family coming in from out of town and wouldn’t be able to stay and speak this year. Smoltz was out of town. Nate McLouth was still at triple-A Gwinnett. Some of the other guys, just like most anybody, aren’t comfortable speaking in front of large crowds. Finally, my friend Tim Cash, the Braves chaplain for Baseball Chapel, emailed me and said he thought Billy Wagner was going to be able to do it.
Saturday evening, the night before the event, I was in Houston’s room upstairs ripping up our nasty white carpet, padding, tack strips and staples to get ready for the Briley’s Flooring guys to come and sand and refinish the hardwood floors in the bedrooms and hallway (my 13th anniversary present to Emily). The boys were at mom & dad’s house while Emily slept downstairs, recovering from knee surgery she had the day before. I worked with no television, no radio, no iPod, no noise and no human interaction of any kind for several hours straight.
I remember exactly where I was in Houston’s room – over near the front window – when I distinctly heard the Spirit say, “I want you to speak in Atlanta tomorrow.” While this was no audible voice it was as real as if someone had reached down and whispered in my ear.
Of course, I immediately dismissed it.
“Oh Lord, you know Billy Wagner’s speaking tomorrow,” I said. “We only have time for one speaker so it will have to be another time.”
“And even if we didn’t have a speaker Lord, why would those people want to listen to me?” I continued my objection. “Compared to Smoltzie and MattE I am a nobody.”
Well, you can guess how the rest of the story goes.
After finishing my carpet demo work I went downstairs, logged on my email and at the top of the stack was an email from my good friend Scott Cunningham with the Braves telling me that Billy Wagner would not be able to speak either on Sunday.
In my continuing wrestling match with the Lord I sent a half-hearted reply back to Scott telling him I knew Tim would be meeting with the players Sunday morning at chapel and that surely he’d find somebody to speak but that if for whatever reason he couldn’t find somebody I wanted to run an idea by him as a backup plan.
With as much fear as I’ve had about anything in a long time I told Scott what I had in mind. This was the 5th annual Faith Day with the Braves and I would share my testimony entitled “Making it to the Big Leagues.” I had some photographs to go with my story and I’d need Scott’s help putting together a presentation for the big HD board in center field.
I kept waiting and listening intently for any sign of hesitation at all in Scott’s voice. That would be my signal that this wasn’t a good idea and I could get out of this mess.
“That sounds like a GREAT backup plan!” said Scott. “We’ll keep trying on our end but if we can’t find anyone Sunday morning that will fit well.”
Baseball chapel came and went Sunday morning around 11 a.m. Scott called me afterwards.
“Brent, we couldn’t find anybody this morning so you’re on,” said Scott.
I have absolutely no idea what went on during the first seven innings of the Braves-Marlins game. I truly had no expectation it would ever get to this. I was feverishly fetching photographs off my laptop, searching for just the right scriptures I wanted to share at the end of the story and loading it all onto a jump drive for Scott so he could work his magic with the HD board.
I stood in the right field corner with the grounds crew during the 8th and 9th innings, watching the game through the fence. MattE tied it up with a two-run homer to right in the 9th. Brian McCann then hit a walk-off homer that was first called a double and then overturned by replay. It was one of the greatest endings to a game of all time.
I couldn’t enjoy it at all. I was scared to death.
Right up until the point in the event where I was supposed to speak I kept looking down in the dugout fully expecting to see a Braves player show up to speak.
No one ever came. So I shared.
More accurately, I let the Spirit share through me.