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one to one: giant on the mound

Keith Burden is the executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists. Email Keith at

To learn more about the National Association of Free Will Baptists, visit

IT WAS LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL IN POTEAU, OKLAHOMA. One of the youngest players on the team, I arrived at the field for my first game sporting a red cap, baggy uniform, and high top tennis shoes (we couldn’t afford cleats).

I sat in the dugout most of the game. Frankly, I didn’t care. The opposing team’s pitcher was John Teeter…the army recruiter’s son. He was HUGE!

Every pitch looked like a white streak crossing the plate. He struck out every batter he faced that evening. I sat on the end of the bench hoping God would spare me the embarrassment of facing the giant on the mound.

The bottom of the fifth was our last time to bat. Feeling obligated to give everyone a chance to play, the coach called my name. “Burden! You bat third this inning.” The first two batters struck out in short order.

I walked to the batter’s box and glanced into the stands. My dad gave me a confident, reassuring nod. I turned and faced the pitcher. He seemed nine feet tall—a David and Goliath scenario. Everything seemed to move in slow motion (except the pitch). John Teeter wound up and threw the first pitch. I clenched my teeth, mustered every ounce of strength, and swung. The umpire barked, “Strike One!”

The coach yelled, “Come on, Burden! Keep your eye on the ball!” I remember thinking, “How can you keep your eye on the ball if you can’t see it?”

The second pitch was a carbon copy of the first and so was my swing. I wasn’t having a good time. I wanted to raise my hands in surrender and return to the safety of the dugout.

But quitting wasn’t an option—my father would never allow it. I took a deep breath and waited for the next guided missile. I faintly remember seeing Big John’s release. It was a curve ball—a breaking pitch inside.

Wide-eyed and determined, I started to swing the bat as hard as I could…not so much to hit the ball, but in self-defense. I apparently missed practice the day they taught us to step back on an inside breaking ball. The baseball slammed into my side and knocked the breath out of me.

The umpire told me to take my base, and I obliged. You would have thought I hit a homerun. The fans in the stands were cheering. We finally had someone on base!

The next batter struck out, ending the game. I walked off the field feeling ten feet tall—at least I got on base. I had learned a valuable, although painful lesson. Be careful what you pray for. You might just get it. I prayed I’d “get a hit”…and I got one!

Step into the batter’s box. There will always be someone bigger, faster, smarter, or more talented than you. Life will throw you curves and knuckle balls. But don’t be intimidated. Keep swinging the bat. Remember—everyone strikes out occasionally…everyone! You may go down, but at least go down swinging.


©2007 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists