Earlier this month, at 34 years old, baseball great Buster Posey retired. Drafted by the San Francisco Giants, he went on to help win three World Series. Retiring means leaving a $22 million paycheck on the table and likely a multimillion-dollar extension to keep him in the Bay area for the rest of his career. Instead, the future Hall of Famer has exchanged his cleats and catcher's mitt for bibs, high chairs, two sets of twins and family life.
Many have noted Posey's healthy perspective on the game, which Posey credits to, among other things, Bible studies and chapel services. Because his identity is found in something bigger than his sport, he's been able to battle through hitting slumps, poor play and injury. For example, in the news conference announcing his retirement, Posey talked about how his love of baseball came from his family.
In his experience, the game united generations. When the Atlanta Braves won the pennant a few decades ago, he shared the experience with his grandfather. At the same time, the game had that kind of impact on his family because of the kind of family it was. Posey has described how much he admires his grandmother, appreciates his uncle, a pastor in Georgia, and finds inspiration from a relative who was a chaplain at Duke University.
The faith formation he received as a young boy formed how he approached the game of baseball. This identity was further galvanized in 2011 when he broke his leg in a collision at home plate. Though the injury ended Posey's season on the diamond, it ushered in a new season at home. In August of that year, he and his wife Kristen welcomed twins to their home. Because of the injury, Posey was present for their birth.
In the following season, Posey won a second World Series ring, along with National League MVP honors. He earned another ring in 2014. In 2020, he opted out of the shortened season. Instead of playing, he and his wife adopted a second set of twins, making them a family of six.
Posey described the time spent at home during COVID-19 using two interesting and somewhat "churchy" words: patience and forgiveness. How many guys have the patience or forgiveness required to choose daily life with a family of six over playing in the major leagues? What Posey experienced at home in 2020 must have done something to him, something to influence his decision to leave a career of fame, riches and admiration in the Bay area for a life requiring more patience and more forgiveness in rural Georgia with a family of six.
In the third century, Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, wrote that Christians don't "speak great things, but we live them." According to Cyprian, this kind of transformed life, shaped by the work of Christ, is enabled by cultivating habits in patience and repentance. For Cyprian, these habits included avoiding idolatry, learning Holy Scripture, studying and accepting the teachings of Jesus, memorizing Bible passages, fostering a culture of peace, learning faith by doing, imitating role models and addressing practical issues from a Christian perspective.
In his book "The Patient Ferment of the Early Church," Alan Kreider describes how this kind of Christian patience, cultivated in habits of living and empowered by Christ, fermented into the kind of transformative energy that eventually changed the world.
Perhaps something similar has happened for this 34-year-old former Giants catcher. More than merely deciding to focus on his family, avoid injury and live his best life now, we're seeing the result of a life trajectory in which the calling to be a father is taken seriously, faithfulness is chosen over success and character is shaped by the patient forces of family life. This kind of decision is never made in a vacuum; it results from the kind of discipleship that leads to what has been called a "long obedience in the same direction."
By choosing a life of patience and forgiveness over Major League Baseball, Buster Posey's kids, community and soul will be better because of it.
From BreakPoint, Nov. 10, 2021; reprinted by permission of the Colson Center, www.breakpoint.org.