by Shannon Wagers
If you’re a baseball fan like me, chances are one of your favorite movies must be The Natural. This movie released in 1984 continues to be a fan favorite among many people. It is arguably one of the greatest sports movies in history as well as having one of the most anthemic theme songs, composed by Randy Newman. Yes, the same guy known for “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from the Toy Story film franchise.
The story of The Natural features a young man named Roy Hobbs. He is unique, a phenom, a marvel at the game of baseball. His big dreams were shattered when he was shot by a mysterious woman. He was showing his skills striking out the fictional “Babe Ruth” of the movie, Walter “The Whammer” Whambold, and then the tragedy occurs. Hobbs was destined for greatness, but that dream would not be immediately realized. Hobbs goes on to reinvent himself as a slugger, a batter with “prodigious power,” who finds his way to the New York Knights. Roy displays rare ability, even to the point of knocking the cover off the ball when his manager Pop Fisher cheers him on from the dugout. There’s also the dramatic scene at the end in which Hobbs hits a home run. He shows his “light tower power” as he crushes a baseball with the resulting explosion that sends sparks flying everywhere. This sets the tone for a career moment.
When The Natural was released, it was unheard of to think of a real-life two-way player, one great at both pitching and hitting—except for Babe Ruth. Ruth was an incredible pitcher who was dissatisfied with appearing just once every four or five days. He wanted to play every day at another position. Ruth made the switch to the outfield and became a part of the legacy and the Americana which is baseball. He was the all-time home run leader until Henry Aaron surpassed Ruth’s record in the mid-1970s.
Author’s note: I still recognize Henry Aaron as the all-time home run leader, but that’s a different story for a different day.
The Two-Way Player
A two-way player is defined as one who can both pitch and hit, and to a lesser extent field.
“Two-way players are common in high school or college ball, and in many European leagues. Every year, there are some top picks in the amateur draft who are considered by scouts as a top talent both as a hitter and a pitcher. In all cases, however, the teams which sign them quickly decide whether they will attempt a career as a hitter or as a pitcher, as the conventional thought was until very recently that doing both is simply too difficult at a major league level.”
In recent years we’ve seen flashes of athletic excellence like this. Perhaps you remember Rick Ankiel of the St. Louis Cardinals, who was a Rookie of the Year caliber pitcher who developed severe problems and struggled throwing strikes consistently. Ankiel came back as an outfielder for several years but never pitched again. Maybe you recall Brooks Kieschnick, who made it to the major leagues as an outfielder, but floundered. He then returned to the minor leagues to pitch. He was good enough at it that the Milwaukee Brewers brought him back to the majors as a pitcher who would also pinch-hit. Now and then you will see pitchers that can hit better than average (e.g., Mike Hampton, Madison Bumgarner). You will sometimes see position players pitch in a blowout game to save a team’s bullpen strength. Or you will even see players who are able to field multiple positions. But absolutely nothing compares to what we are witnessing this season with Japanese-born Shohei Ohtani.
Welcome to the Show
Los Angeles Angels Ohtani, nicknamed “Shotime,” has been described as having the pitching prowess of Max Scherzer, the blazing speed of Trea Turner, and the slugging proficiency of Bryce Harper. Those are all three All-Star caliber level players with best in the league abilities, yet Ohtani has them all. To quote Babe Ruth himself: “I don’t think a man can pitch in his regular turn, and play every other game at some other position, and keep that pace year after year.”
Here a just few other ways in which Ohtani is unique:
- The first player since Babe Ruth to hit at least 20 home runs and pitch at least 50 innings in the same season.
- Broke the record for the most home runs by a Japanese-born player in a single season—and that was before the All-Star break!
- Became the first player in MLB history to have at least 32 home runs and at least 12 stolen bases before the All-Star break.
- The first ever doubly elected All-Star for pitching (by the players) and as a designated hitter (by the fans) in Major League Baseball history.
- The first player in All-Star Game history to both start on the pitching mound and bat in the leadoff position.
- 2,800+ pitchers have thrown 30 strikeouts and 300 batters have crushed 10 home runs in their teams’ first 30 games since 1900. Shohei Ohtani is the first player ever to do both.
- Became the first player to start a game as pitcher while leading the majors in home runs since Babe Ruth did it on June 13, 1921.
There are probably more I’ve missed and more records that Ohtani will break.
The Uniqueness of Jesus
Shohei Ohtani is unique, however there are things that are so unique about Jesus that no one can ever compare to.
What makes Jesus unique? I simply love the take of Christianity.com writer Dave Jenkins:
1 Timothy 1:15 contains one of the most concise and comprehensive answers to that question. This Scripture helps Bible readers discover that central to the salvation of sinners is that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
As Jenkins states, “The uniqueness of the person of Jesus secures the validity of Jesus’ finished work.” Jesus did not come into the world to be a genie in a bottle, nor just a good moral teacher or philosopher. When he walked this earth, he was uniquely God and uniquely man. I encourage you to visit the link below to explore more on the uniqueness of Jesus, including scriptural references and discussion.
Do you desire to know more about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ? Christ’s Church has not only resources and opportunities for you, but people who want to walk beside you as you grow in your faith. Wanna know more? You can contact us here: https://ourchristschurch.com/care/
Shannon Wagers is a recognized Master Facilitator for Procter & Gamble. Shannon resides in Liberty Township with his wife Ruth, daughter Katherine, and dog Bear.