Updated: Apr 7, 2020
I was recently reminded of one of the wildest Major League Baseball stories of my lifetime. It was the bottom of the seventh inning in game five of the 2002 World Series, and the San Fransisco Giants had a 8-4 lead over the Anaheim Angels (now known as the Los Angeles Angels). Giants center fielder Kenny Lofton stepped to the plate with runners on second and third with one out. With the a 2-1 count, Lofton lifted a ball into deep right-center field that caromed of the outfield wall. Giants first baseman J. T. Snow was standing on third base. When he saw that the ball wasn’t caught, he sprinted home to score. It is at this moment that something unusual happened. As he crossed home plate, Snow saw 3-year-old bat boy, and son of Giants manager Dusty Baker, Darren Baker enter the baseline as Giants third baseman David Bell barreled around third toward home. Almost as if he reacted without thinking, Snow grabbed young Darren by his jacket and lifted him safely out of harms way.
One wonders what in the world Dusty Baker was thinking letting his 3-year-old son run around the dugout while he managed a profession baseball team at the game’s highest point. But then again, what father wouldn’t want to share such a moment with his son? And baseball is just that kind of sport, where the likes of baseball legends like Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds are raised on a steady diet of major league club houses before learning to walk. Embedded in the culture of Major League Baseball is the expectation that children hang out with their dads at work. This is how baseball has managed to thrive on generational talent, because the love of the game is passed down from generation to generation on long summer nights when major league baseball kids watch their dads play the sport they love.
When we look at it that way, how could Dusty Baker not want his son to be with him in the dugout? There is certainly a point when things could have gone too far. Does letting your toddler son run free in a World Series dugout get there? Who am I to say? But I do empathize with Dusty. What parent doesn’t want to share the things they love most with their children?
I recognize over the past several months that young children have at times made things difficult during our service. I know that sometimes my own children have been the sources of those difficulties. There have been weeks when I have struggled to keep my concentration worrying that Annette or Abraham was being distracting. But when I was reminded of this story from the 2002 World Series, I couldn’t help but smile. Turns out I’m not the only dad whose kids run into less than ideal situation at less than ideal times. I’m sure that Dusty Baker caught a lot of flack for that moment. How could he let his son run freely onto the field during a World Series game? It’s a valid question, really. How could Dusty expect anyone to have the undivided attention it requires to keep a close eye on a toddler in the dugout of a Word Series team?
As much as I appreciate this story, and relate with it, I do see one major difference. While Darren Baker’s presence in the dugout that night is certainly questionable, there is no doubt in my mind that there is no better place for children than a Sunday morning worship service. If there is one place children should be, it’s in the presence of God learning the ropes of worship with their church family. And this is what makes being a faith community so difficult. Sunday morning is one of the few places in our society where it is fully expected that adults and children mix. Our church is extra unique because we have five generations worshiping together. If research has told us anything, it's that children worshiping with adults is one of the best tools we have for passing our faith to the next generation. And it makes sense, seeing as baseball has been doing it for years: sons hanging out with Dad and his teammates, learning the ropes of the game, seeing first hand the work that must be put in off the field, and overhearing legends share their secrets. It’s all part of being raised in baseball. And for Darren Baker, it seems to have worked out. Coming out of high school he was drafted by the Washington Nationals but decided to play for the University of California, Berkeley where he is making quite a name for himself. Our children are our greatest commodity, and it’s our responsibility to raise them to be big leaguers.
Research on intergenerational worship: