A little over a decade ago, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel to a group of youth workers. My fellow panelists that day were Royals great Mike Sweeney, youth worker Dana Nearmyer and Royals' pitcher Jeremy Affeldt. From that moment on, Jeremy invited me into his life as a pastor, theological conversation partner, spiritual guide and most of all, friend. We have been through a lot together with lots of valleys and mountain top experiences. I helped Jeremy with his first book, To Stir a Movement and welaunched an initiative called Something to Eat, which has provided nearly 4million meals to those struggling with hunger.
A year and a half ago, Jeremy started talking a lot about retiring. It wasn't because he was struggling with his performance. (I should have pressured him to retire at All Star break last year and then he wouldn't have pitched against my beloved Royals and getting the win as a pitcher in game seven.) He talked of retirement because he loves his family and grew increasingly sad about missing time with them. His three boys are growing up quick and he hates not being with them more. There were a couple of times earlier in the season that he thought about quitting abruptly.
A couple of weeks ago the Giants front office called and asked if Vicki and I would come to be a part of a special ceremony honoring Jeremy at today’s Giants’ game. I am honored to be here and grateful to the Giants for spending the money to bring family and some friends to San Francisco to pay tribute to Jeremy who helped them win three World Series Championships since 2010.
I look forward to what God has in store for Jeremy and Larisa in the years ahead. It has been a highlight of my life to watch Jeremy develop as a player (just look at his postseason stats, putting him in the company of legends like Mariano Rivera and Babe Ruth), even more, to see him grow as a follower of God in the way of Jesus. He is committed to come along the “least of these” (Matthew 25) and to stand up as a leader to call a thing what it is. Perhaps most of all, Jeremy has become more than a friend. The Celts had a phrase to describe what I’m talking about. Anam Cara, is Gaelic for “soul friend” and that’s what Jeremy is for me.
A very surreal week started with a wonderful tailgate meal with Vicki while anticipation mounted for the Chiefs playing New England on Monday Night Football on a perfect fall evening in Kansas City. Even though we love our Chiefs, the city is in frenzy over the KC Royals. While waiting for the kickoff the atmosphere was enhanced by a dozen or so Royals players who made a surprise appearance on the field at Arrowhead. The crowd roared as they walked around the perimeter of the field, giving high fives and chatting with fans. The Chiefs made a classy decision to feature a Royals congratulation video on the jumbotron. Arrowhead was charged up. I felt like the Chiefs had a good chance to win but no one expected a 41 to 14 spanking of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. This was SO FUN. We also broke the Guinness Book of World Records by becoming the loudest open-air stadium in the world reaching 142.2 decibels.
This event was opening act for the headliner happening on Tuesday, when the KC Royals would return to post-season play for the first time in 29 years. If the opening act featuring the Chiefs was so good, then certainly the headliner playing the next night would surely be stunning.
Tuesday morning started out charmed when I pulled up to one of my regular coffee stops to find George Brett holding court with some buddies, talking baseball and telling stories. George saw the Brett Jersey I had bought my father several years ago hanging in my back window. That brought a big smile and thumbs up from the Hall of Famer.
I headed to Kauffman Stadium early to take in all the festivities. I particularly went to sit in the same seat I sat in next to my father on his last outing before dying a little over a year ago. My dad taught me how to love baseball so deeply. When it became clear that we would be playing the Oakland A’s in the Wild Card game, I knew I had to be there. The A’s came to KC from Philadelphia. They never had a winning record in KC but I loved them. In fact, my parents had to get special permission at my grade school to let me where my Kelly Green and Gold A’s hat. I even had my school picture taken with my hat on. When my father told me that Charlie Finley was taking the A’s to Oakland, I cried for days. It wasn’t long before KC was granted an expansion team that we wouldcall the Royals. Some of my earliest memories are of my father taking me to old Municipal Stadium to see the A’s and then the Royals play. Ewing Kauffman, the owner of the Royals, worked to get us a new stadium, along with Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt. Several times a month my dad would take to the overview hill to watch the progress being made on the new stadiums. So it was special, painful and joyful all at the same time to sit in this chair and remember.
The pre-game festivities set the stage for an amazing, one of a kind night. I chatted with Jamie Roach, my brother-in-law; Eddie Garlich, a Youthfront kid now grown up; friends Gary and Vickie Pener; I saw friend and Royals legend Mike Sweeney and exchanged texts; and for a special treat I discovered in row two behind the Royals dugout and right in front of me, Julia Burbridge, a Youthfront supporter and friend, with her two daughters, Lisa and Anna. I was missing Steve, Julia’s husband, who was in Palm Springs on business. I eventually moved down a row to sit with them. I got non-stop messages and texts from friends, during the drama of the game, friends who saw me on TV. I’ve learned that sitting near the dugout gets you TV and JumboTron time.
When we went down two runs in the first inning my heart sank but soon soared as we regained the lead. I’m not going to lie – I was depressed and resigned to lose when we entered the bottom of the 8th behind by a score of 7-3. But then magic happened and continued to happen. When Peres hit the walk off single, in what had become the first winner-take-all game to go at least 12 innings since Game 7 of the 1924 World Series, I cried, the kind where tears roll down the cheeks. Even though the clock was striking midnight and I had a 5:00am flight to Sacramento, California for the National Youth Workers Convention, I couldn’t leave. The fans couldn’t leave. The players couldn’t leave until we properly celebrated in astonishment what had just happened. My phone was lit up with texts, v-mails, calls, tweets, Facebook mentions, etc. from friends from all over the world. I so wish my dad could have been at this game. One of those voicemails was from my mother. I called her back on the way home and we celebrated, talked about dad and reminisced.
As I finally pulled myself away from the field, I did, what my dad would have wanted me to do. I stopped at least two dozen 8 – 10 year olds who were walking to the cars with their fathers and mothers. With what voice I had left I enthusiastically told them, “You are so lucky to be here. What happened tonight you will remember the rest of your life. You will some day tell your children about it. You were here. You saw this and you will never forget it.” Once the parents realized I wasn’t intoxicated, they affirmed what I was saying and jumped on the moment to drive home the moment to their children. I think my father would be very proud of me for doing that.
We have been able to work closely together to grow Something to Eat™ into something unique that not only provides food for those who are hungry but challenges young people to lean into the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 25.
The best part of this video is that it features Larisa, who is much better looking than Jeremy and the dynamos in their relationship.
Youthfront LaCygne 22626 E. 2400 Rd. LaCygne, KS 66040
Youthfront LaCygne is set on 600 acres of beautiful prairie land,
dotted with trees, streams, a lake and sacred spaces, all inviting
people to discover what it is to be fully alive.
October 11 and 12
7:30 on Friday – 5:00p on Saturday
What to expect:
This retreat is not going to be filled with sessions you feel
obligated to attend. Rather, you will have unhurried time to play with
your kids, take a walk through the autumn leaves, hang out in the snack
shop with friends, tell stories around the campfire and pray together.
You will be encouraged to slow down and connect with those you love
Right now is the second best time of the year, if you are a true baseball fan (unless your team is actually playing in the World Series, in which case it's the best time of the year, GO GIANTS). For most, the best time of the year is Spring Training when all have hope for a future that involves your team winning a World Series pennant.
My friend, Ethan Bryan, has written a book that captures the hope of Spring Training but deepens this hope for all. A hope in life and faith that goes way beyond the joy of your team winning the World Series.
From the Back Cover, "What can baseball teach us about living in the way of Jesus? Can going
to a baseball game be an exercise in spiritual formation? Run Home & Take a Bow shares
twenty insightful stories of the intersection of baseball and faith.
Grab a Dr Pepper and your glove and enjoy the journey."
Here's what people, including me, are saying about Run Home and Take a Bow:
Every baseball fan knows
the ballpark invites solitude, contrition, human solidarity, joy, and
enlightenment. Sit with baseball contemplative Ethan Bryan as he opens up the
simple truth of human living through one season with the Kansas City Royals.
Bryan’s heartfelt stories will call you back to the touchstones that give life
meaning—faith, family, gratitude, persistence, and play.
Director of the Center for Engaged Compassion
Author of Wonder, Fear, and Longing: A Book of Prayers.
book is as life giving as Opening Day and it’s as sensory as pounding your
glove and smelling the leather. If you are passionate about baseball
you will love this book. If you are not a baseball fan, just a lover of
great stories then read this book and you will be inspired, but beware, you
might just become a baseball fan.
President of Youthfront
Author and Editor of Immerse Journal
a big sports fan, and care little about the K.C. Royals, and I loved this book!
You will too, I'm sure. Just a few pages in, you just know that
Ethan Bryan is a truly good man, a caring dad, a fine writer, and a great
storyteller. His childlike joy in his beloved game is a delight to behold
and along the way you will meet some true athletic heros, from Hall of Fame
stars to historic sports writers and some memorably diehard fans. And
there is a caste of characters unrelated to the game, from Mike the Theologian
and Chick-fil-A Jake to Bryan's sweet baseball-loving daughters, not to mention
bunches of Bible guys, drawn vividly from the pages of Holy Scripture as
they are set alongside the boys of summer. This is light reading that
pitches some serious life lessons, is as entertaining as peanuts during the 7th
inning stretch and, like a last-ditch homer in the bottom of the 9th, has you
on your feet, leaving truly inspired. Take a bow, Ethan, author and
Owner, Hearts & Minds Books
been taught not to talk about politics and religion in polite company, two of
the three most interesting things in life worth talking about. So thank God for
baseball. And thank God for Ethan Bryan's reflections on life, faith,
friendship, and the greatest game ever invented.
Senior Pastor of Brentwood Christian Church in Springfield, MO
Author of Preaching After God
I had so many highlights from the recent Wild Goose Festival. One of the most spiritual profound moments for me was on the eve of the festival. Ian Cron, Joy Wallis, Todd Fadel and Topher Philgreen were sitting in a circle engaged in conversation about the festival and the conversation turned to music that shaped us spiritually. Since we were all pretty much from the same era some blasts from the past emerged. One of the names that came up was Evie Tournquist. I know that ages me. We even had a little Evie sing-a-long. At that point, the night took a magical turn and reached a crescendo when we each picked a favorite hymn and together joined in singing it. Holy, Holy, Holy; I Love Him; I Come to the Garden Alone, and on... transcendent, enriching and worshipful. Todd Fadel oversees the music for Wild Goose and he is a wonderful man, follower of Jesus and has a sweet family. Todd just sent this Evie song to me and Joy (because we declared ourselves the Evie fan club). Maybe you had to be there but I think it is beautiful. Thanks Todd.
My friend Ethan Bryan, is a youth worker who has a passion for writing. Several times Ethan has become discouraged in his attempt to get published. He has written some good stuff for the Immerse Journal and has contributed to several other projects. I always tell Ethan, if you are passionate about writing for the pure joy of it then you must keep writing even if no one ever reads your words. Ethan is also passionate about baseball. He is maybe the biggest baseball fan I've ever met, especially because he has never waivered on his love for the Kansas City Royals.
Well, Ethan is now writing for the blog called The Kings of Kauffman and I'm so happy for him. Here is his latest post of a reflection on life through Royal's pitcher Charlie Leibrandt and I must say as a big baseball fan and a Royals fan, it's really good.
Our Youthfront Staff Christmas Party was a blast. All 70 of us started out at staff member Kelsey Fuller's parent's home for appetizers before heading to the home of Cheryl and Randy Reinhardt. Cheryl is the Vice-Chair of our board. We had a wonderful time celebrating mile markers of various staff members. Dan Earl recieved a 5 year award, Fletch Kelly recieved a 10 year award and Tommy Thompson recieved an award and a cash bonus for 30 years of serving on the staff of Youthfront. With each reciepient we open up a time for story-telling, it's so good. Also, this year I completed my 35th year at Youthfront. I recieved a Waterford Crystal Limited Edition of a San Francisco Giants World Series Baseball, a generous cash bonus plus a lot of love from my fellow staff members.
After a wonderful dinner we partied late into the night with the live Karaoke band Separated at Birth. I got in a little Rod Stewart with Maggie May (this explains the picture with hair) and a finale with Erik Leafblad and Kurt Rietema and our rendition of One by U2. I'm just hoping no video shows up on YouTube.