Winning the Right Way

Posted: Oct 24, 2007 12:01 AM
Winning the Right Way

The Red Sox are in the World Series, opening today, and I have got a very big problem. Having grown up in Boston buying 60-cent seats to the bleachers to watch my heroes, the Red Sox, I became a lifelong fan. But now they are playing the Colorado Rockies, which is going to test my loyalty as a member of the Red Sox nation.

You see, back on September 15, baseball’s Colorado Rockies were only four games above .500, six-and-a-half games behind in the race for the final playoff spot. With only nine games left to play, they were still four-and-a-half games behind.

Then came what Jayson Stark of ESPN called a “rampage for the ages,” and now the Rockies, 40-to-1 shots to make it to the playoffs, are in the World Series. To get to the playoffs, the Rockies had to win 14 of their last 15 games, including a do-or-die one-game playoff against the San Diego Padres. As befitted this improbable story, they won that game by scoring three runs in the bottom of the 13th inning to overcome a two-run deficit.

Once October started, the Rockies kept rolling: They swept both Philadelphia and Arizona to enter the World Series having won 21 of their last 22 games. As Stark put it, “This didn’t . . . happen [really], did it?”

Well, it did. And this lifelong Red Sox fan could not be happier, because this is more than a feel-good underdog story. It is sweet vindication for an organization that dared to run its business as if what it believed were true. You see, their recent rampage is not the only thing that sets the Rockies apart. The Rockies are the first major league sports franchise organized on specifically Christian principles.

That does not mean that the Rockies only sign Christian players. General Manager Dan O’Dowd told USA Today that while he knows “some of the guys who are Christians,” he “can’t tell you who is and who isn’t.”

The Rockies’ way means “[doing] the best job [they] can to get [the right] people with the right sense of moral values . . .” To that end, prospective Rockies are interviewed to see if they are compatible with the Rockies’ approach.

Once players join the Rockies, they are put in an environment that reinforces these values: “Quotes from Scripture are posted in the weight room. Chapel service is packed on Sundays. Prayer and fellowship groups each Tuesday are well-attended.”

And off the field, the Rockies players recently proved that the “Rockies’ Way” is the right way. Last summer, a minor league coach in the Rockies farm system, Mike Coolbaugh, was killed by a line drive while coaching at first base. The Rockies players have now voted a full share of the team’s playoff money for the coach’s family. And the Coolbaugh’s two sons, five-year-old Joseph and three-year-old Jacob, threw out the first pitch of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. General Manager O’Dowd “almost started crying” when he learned what the Rockies had done. He said, “It was very emotional for me. It really went to the core of the character we’ve worked so hard to bring to this organization.”

With all the news these days about steroids, cheating, and felony arrests, modern-day pro sports needs a story about the good guys. And athletes need the reminder that it is possible to excel both as a player and as a human being—that character counts. And as for this Red Sox fan, well, I am going to be happy however the series turns out.