Here is a devotional from my second book “On the Field of Life: Baseball Devotionals”, published in 2015 (and very inexpensive on Amazon!)
February 23, 2016
My Hero, Ron Hunt
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 53: 3 – 12 (Read in context)
Key verse: Isaiah 53: 6 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (ESV)
I’m at least tied for a record in the Senior League division of Little League. I did something that has only happened once in the long 114 year history of the American League – that covers a lot of years! I was hit by a pitch twice in the same inning – by the same pitcher (Jeff S. – I’ll find him one of these days!) Getting hit by a pitch was not my specialty, though – that was the only time I got hit in the Seniors. It was, however, a key part of the game of my baseball hero, and the reason I wear the number I wear.
Obviously, one of the dangers of the game is getting hit by a pitch. Most of the time, the pitcher doesn’t want to do that – hit the batter with a pitched ball – but it happens occasionally. It’s actually not a bad thing – except for the possibility of getting hurt, the batter gets to go to first base. I actually drove in a run the second time I got hit because the bases were loaded. There are two things that can increase its occurrence, though: one is that sometimes the pitcher tries to hit a batter, for one reason or another. Two is if the batter crowds the plate – that means he stands as close to the plate as possible without getting in the strike zone (if you get hit by a pitch in the strike zone, it’s a strike).
Ron Hunt was like that. He would stand as close to home plate as he could without actually being in the strike zone (maybe!) He was the master of the HBP. He had developed a way of getting hit that made it a frequent occurrence for him. Any pitch that was a quarter of an inch inside, he would turn his shoulder, “trying” to get out of the way of it, while at the same time enabling him to make sure he got hit in a way that it wouldn’t hurt very much – most pitches that hit him deflected off of the “meaty” part of his left upper back.
Because of the way he stood at home plate, a lot of pitchers had a hard time pitching to him. They would try so hard NOT to hit him, they ended up either walking him or giving him an easy pitch to hit. Jim Bunning was once so frustrated trying to pitch to him that he just threw the first pitch at him – if that’s how he wants to get on first, fine!
Now, how did I become a fan of his? After all, he never played one game for the Phillies. If fact, he played for the hated Mets, the hated Dodgers, the hated Giants, the hated Expos, and ended his career with the Cardinals (who I didn’t hate). He actually got the first hit I ever saw in a Major League game – a single off of one of my favorite pitchers, Rick Wise – for the Mets in 1966. To tell you the truth, I HATED him at first – he always seemed to do well against the Phillies and was always getting on base – he was what you call “pesky.” But my friends and I gradually began to have a grudging respect for him which grew into an admiration. Especially when he, in 1971, playing for the lowly Montreal Expos, he got hit by a pitch 50 times – 50 times! – to set the modern single season record.
Why? Because of the other term used to describe the hit batsman – it’s referred to as “taking one for the team.” It’s really a selfless act – putting yourself in danger purposely – at the Major League level. These pitchers are the best in the world – it’s more than a little scary for the average person to stand at bat against a Major League pitcher, let alone allow yourself to let the ball hit you. Every time he batted, he put himself in harm’s way, deliberately, to get on base to help his team win. There was no personal glory in it – a lot of pain, but not really any glory in it. He once said, “Some people give their bodies to science; I give mine to baseball.” He finished his career with a record-setting 243 HBP’s ( since broken by two hitters who batted many more times than Ron).
My brother, my friends, and I formed the Ron Hunt Fan Club. We started celebrating his birthday – February 23. I, personally, adopted his number as my own – that’s why I started wearing 33. To this day, I call my friend Spig on three days of the year: my birthday in September, his birthday in November, and Ron Hunt’s birthday in February.
We revered Ron Hunt because he gave everything he had to the team. He was selfless in his pursuit of the team’s good. He frequently “took one for the team.” But what Jesus did for us is infinitely greater. Look at the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53: 3 – 12. Listen to all the ways Jesus took our sins on Himself; to all the ways He gave Himself for us:
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53: 3 – 12 ESV)
Ron Hunt endured pain to help his team win baseball games. Jesus endured eternal pain and suffering to gain us eternity.
Thought: Never forget to thank Jesus for what He did for us on the cross!