March 2000 – “Dad, what do you think I should do?” my 10-year-old son Wesley asked me from the back seat of our van. I was taking him, and his brother and sister to school as I do each morning. “Do you think I should trade Chipper Jones for Mark McGwire or not?”
I’m sorry for getting so serious right off the bat, so to speak. But when a young boy starts collecting baseball cards and must decide between Chipper Jones and Mark McGwire, life gets serious. The young boy – soon to be a young man – learns that things aren’t always clear-cut in this world. Sometimes decisions aren’t black and white. There is a lot of gray area out there, like whether or not to trade Chipper Jones for Mark McGwire.
“Well, Wes, don’t you already have three Mark McGwire cards?”
“Yes sir, I have two when he was with the Oakland A’s and one with the Cardinals.”
“And you have only one Chipper Jones card?”
“As much as we love watching McGwire play, Wes, I think you’ve got to save the Chipper Jones card. Don’t trade.”
“Okay, but Joey is going to be disappointed. I told him yesterday I would think about it and talk with you.”
Decision made. Just in time to wish my three a good day at school.
No doubt, the main reason Wesley loves baseball is that I love baseball. And the main reason the St. Louis Cardinals are Wesley’s favorite team, is, of course, that they are also my favorite team. In most things in life, the old adage is true – like father, like son.
When I was Wesley’s age I listened to the Cardinals on a transistor radio. We didn’t have television games every day like they do today. NBC carried the Game of the Week each Saturday afternoon, but that was about it. All other times, it was the radio and my imagination. Day or night, I was tuned in. All summer long. I would listen to the Dugout Show, then the game, then The Star of the Game Show. I knew every stat about every Cardinal.
One day while I was mowing our yard, my dad came out of the house and asked me to turn off the mower. He told me that a family in our church, the Lehmans, were planning a trip to St. Louis to see the Cardinals play. They had asked if I wanted to come along. I couldn’t believe it. If I had won a million dollars I couldn’t have been happier.
I have a vivid memory of how my heart raced the first time I went into the stadium. Lou Brock in left field. Bob Gibson on the mound. Joe Torre on third. I was in heaven!
This summer I plan to take Wesley and a friend to St. Louis. Now, instead of Lou Brock or Bob Gibson, it’s Mark McGwire we will be going to see. Wesley has a red Cardinals jersey with McGwire on the back. I’m sure he’ll wear it to the games.
I raised Wesley to love baseball, the Cardinals and Mark McGwire. He has certainly caught my love for the game.
I thought about that the other day. While we try to make a yearly pilgrimage to St. Louis each summer, our family believes in worshiping Jesus Christ with other Christians each Sunday. Wesley made a public decision to follow Christ two years ago and was baptized. He loves God and is growing in his faith. Although I haven’t always been the perfect example, this is what I have taught him is the most important thing in life: following the Lord.
There was another summer’s day I remember well. It was the summer of 1976 at youth camp just outside Oxford, Mississippi. It was there that a counselor lead me to a personal faith in Jesus Christ. I was raised in a Christian home – my dad was a minister – but it was on that hot summer day that I, Tim Wildmon, said yes to the Savior, and He said yes to me.
As I look back, I now know that God used the example of my dad to bring me to Jesus. I had seen Jesus in my own dad. I knew that his faith was a real faith in a real God. He encouraged me in the things of God and modeled a genuineness before me everyday.
I try to do that now with Wesley and my other two children. Generally speaking, children become the adults their parents have raised them to be.
Wesley is accumulating a fine baseball card collection. But I am about ready to let him take a big step – a right of passage for many young American boys. I am going to cut him loose and encourage him to make his own decisions about who to trade and who to keep.
But before I do, here’s one last bit of advice, not about baseball cards, but something much more important: never trade Jesus, Wesley. Never trade Jesus for anybody or anything.