Riley is an ex-Army Ranger. He pulled three tours of duty in the war zones. As I heard it, it was late in the first play off game for the State tournament when Riley was inserted as a pinch runner at second base. The game was tied as the batter hooked a soft liner over the shortstop. Riley took off from second base with one thing in mind—he wanted to score. Rounding third base, he kicked it into over drive. He hurtled towards home plate with all the gusto he could muster. His purpose was to score.
Standing in his way was the opposing team’s catcher. His purpose is to protect home plate, not allowing anyone to score. A mighty collision was inevitable. The ex-Army Ranger on a mission to score and the small town Minnesota factory worker bent on protecting home plate. When the dust settled, the ex-Army Ranger was thrown out of the game for hitting the catcher too hard. Yes, he was playing with too much enthusiasm.
My suggestion for the small town Minnesota baseball tournament officials is this—let’s give skirts to all the ex-Army Rangers who play the game. Yes, that way we will at least know who they are; then they can run past the catcher and with one fell swoop the catcher can tag out the ex-army ranger and pat him on his tush at the same time, while he pirouettes toward the dugout.
Judges 11:1-7 says: 1 Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. 2 Gilead's wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. "You are not going to get any inheritance in our family," they said, "because you are the son of another woman." 3 So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a group of adventurers gathered around him and followed him. 4 Some time later, when the Ammonites made war on Israel, 5 the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 "Come," they said, "be our commander, so we can fight the Ammonites." 7 Jephthah said to them, "Didn't you hate me and drive me from my father's house? Why do you come to me now, when you're in trouble?"
Jephthah’s dad Gilead had a skirt problem. He chased one too many. He had an affair with a prostitute. Jephthah was the result.
His half brothers, probably pampered snots, drove Jephthah away from the family. It was over money. In Judges 11:2 says in part “you are not going to get any inheritance in our family because you are the son of another woman” they said. (Remember, his mom was a prostitute.) Jephthah got the message and he hit the road. On his own he learned how to fight. In verse three it said, “He fled to the land of Tob” (which I think is Oklahoma because that’s where Toby Keith has his ranch!) “where a group of adventurers gathered around him and followed him.” He became a leader of men. He learned how to fight.
When the Israelites got in trouble with Ammonites, they didn’t know how to fight so they needed some real men who knew how to fight. Jephthah’s legend must have spread far and wide. The leader of Israel “went a callin’” on Jephthah; “Come help us.” Yes, the rejected one was asked to come back and fight.
In America, we want our men to be nice—not necessarily manly. I am grateful we still have men who play baseball with gusto. I am thankful we have men who fight fires, chase bandits, and fight wars in the presence of great personal risk. I like the idea that we have men who would march into hell for heavenly causes. Riley is such a man. Is he an anomaly? Are men like him not needed any more?
It’s ok Riley, if you put yourself on the front line and fight for us in war but don’t come home and play baseball to win. No, be cool, be a domesticated wimp. That way we can live with you. Fit nicely into our nice guys and gals mold. I guess I’m old fashioned but I want a hero. Riley, however imperfect, is my hero. We don’t want him to play baseball too hard but we’ll gladly let him fight our wars. America and small town Minnesota baseball, you can’t have it both ways. Do you want nice guys or do you want men who play and fight to win? We need a generation of men who want to be heroes. We want men who are willing to live and yes even die for a cause greater than themselves. Thank God for men who are still warriors, imperfect as they may be.