Above Failure, Under Grace
“I know the plans that I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope”
By Erich Uelmen
Making sense of my Athletic Career
There used to be a time in life in which failure created anxious frustration. In hindsight it was a gift, it drove me to my current place, but it was far too heavy a burden to carry.
Recycling my processes each time everything felt wrong made me question all that I did in order to improve. I needed to release this burden or else I would inevitably lack the confidence needed to produce.
Well, I held on to them instead, and the confidence was lost.
I’m too proud to say that I ever feared failure, but failure still drove me into a bi-polar state of insecurity being smothered by false confidence.
Why does real confidence evade or leave so many of us? Life changed when I discovered its the source. Real confidence would be a full conviction and a perfect certainty of good at all times.
Who or what can promise this?
I recall now one of my favorite pieces of scripture:
But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today…” (Ex. 14:13)
The nation of Israel heard these words just before the Lord parted the waters of the sea, rescuing them from the pursuing slavers of Egypt, providing their salvation.
My career completely changed when I learned that salvation was more than just a ticket to heaven, specifically through Jesus’ death on the cross.
It changed because the Holy Spirit showed me, Jesus, as Lord, and I knew that the Lord was good because he is infallible and His word never changes.
This means I can have real confidence because the Lord does not fail. I needed to know this to carry on with my career with joy and peace compared to the fear and anxiety, which I admit, drove me before.
The reason I was fearful and anxious was that I believed I was in control and I knew I couldn’t trust myself completely.
Another piece of scripture says:
Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:29-30)
I had many burdens, but Jesus said to make Him my burden.
How does that make sense? Only the Holy Spirit can explain, but I will try.
To make Jesus my only burden was and is freedom from all other burdens. Because of the burden of my sin Jesus suffered for me on the cross.
“You have burdened me with your sins, You have wearied me with your iniquities. I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgression for my own sake, And I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:24-25).
Now I am no longer a burden to God as I was before. I burdened him because I didn’t trust that he loved me enough to heal my brokenness.
The brokenness showed to me by the Holy Spirit, when I was a burden to God, made me realize I was also I was a burden to myself.
The Lord did this because I am his creation, as are you, and wants to make his glory known through those who love Him and share with us the opportunity to experience his goodness in this sinful life and for all eternity.
The Glory of God is very important to God and He promised to make it known. Therefore I can believe Solomon’s wisdom, “the Lord will be your confidence” (Prov 3:26), because my confidence is now placed in the God whose glory is of utmost importance to Him, and since He is perfect, it will be done.
He will be glorified and through his mercy, I may be a part of that in any way He sees fit. I currently desire for God’s vision for my life to be served through the baseball field on the mound. “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
I delight that I am not my own, I am the Lords and He will be done.
“Whether you eat or you drink or whatever you do, do for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).
Now that my career is no longer for me and is now for Jesus, I no longer have the burden of failure. We fail when we think our lives did not go according to plan, but now the only failure I can imagine is the failure of not knowing and trusting the Lord Jesus.
The Lord said, “I know the plans that I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11).
I think it is really easy for any athlete to get caught up in the expectations of an unpleasant society. I’m just here to say it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to place an unnecessary burden upon yourself. Or struggle to paint a comely, yet fake face every day.
Ask yourself how giving up a bit of burden and anxiety could change your career and maybe even your life.
Dealing with the Pressure of Your Family Name
The Grieves: A Family of Baseball
Baseball has always been the center of my life. When I was growing up at a young age, I never really felt the pressures of having so much rich baseball history in my family, but the older I got, the more people noticed my last name.
The pressure that came with my family name impacted how I treated the game. My parents did not put any pressure on how far I made it playing. They always just wanted me to play the game respectfully because the name on the back of my jersey carried a lot of baseball knowledge and experience.
My dad Ben was drafted second overall in 1994 by the A’s, my uncle Tim was drafted in 1994 by the Royals, and my grandpa Tom was drafted sixth overall by the Senators in 1966.
Consequently, the pressure was on my younger brother and me to be baseball players.
I doubt my brother realizes that yet, and I definitely didn’t know it at his age, but now, I realize. Every coach that I have ever played for knows who my dad is. When I go to big tournaments, people come up to me and ask if I am related to Ben or Tom. I definitely feel like people are always watching me when I am playing and that there are always high expectations for me to perform well.
However, I have taken this in the best way possible most of the time as I use the pressure to motivate me to reach the expectations people have on me.
Other times, it has been more challenging, though. When I make mistakes, I feel even worse than I should because I feel those same people watching are disappointed. It is nearly impossible not to compare myself to my dad or grandpa when everyone else is.
When I am playing at my worst, I wonder if my dad experienced those same struggles, and that weighs over me.
It is a blessing to have so much experience and knowledge of the game at home with me, as I essentially have the best built-in hitting coach possible in my dad, but it is also hard to learn from someone who had baseball come so easy to them.
My dad can give me all the mechanical advice I need, but when it comes to mental advice, he cannot offer the same direction as he does on physical parts of the game.
I struggled majorly with the mental half of the game for most of my life, as the pressure I put on myself was often way more than I knew how to handle. In comparison, my dad was the top prospect in the world when his senior year in high school rolled around, which is where I am right now.
He never dealt with the mental struggles I have endured, at least not as a high schooler. In that sense, I feel helpless when I get in my head, as the tremendous mentoring of my dad becomes less and less valuable.
He can offer some changes to my swing and slight adjustments that might help me get back on track, but he can’t help me get out of my head when I go through a rough stretch at the plate.
With that, I have learned to embrace the mental toughness I have developed, as I have never once thought about giving up. Despite all the struggles I have endured playing the game, I still only want to be better and work harder.
Maybe my mental struggles are a blessing more than a downfall.
I have used them as my motivation to practice more with my dad when I am struggling. Yes, I get down on myself, but everyone does when they struggle. And baseball is a sport of struggling, but I have never backed away from the competition or the challenge. What I once considered my weakness in baseball, I now consider a strength. When I am at my worst, my inner doubt has only forced me to become better. It is a unique part of my game that no one can compare to my dad, uncle, or grandpa.
Addressing the Future of Baseball in 2021
QnA with 50 Year MLB Coach and Scouting Veteran, Jerry Weinstein.
This week I caught up with Jerry Weinstein, a long-time baseball buff, to say the very least. Jerry began his coaching career back in 1966 as a freshman coach at UCLA, and today, after an unprecedented coaching run that found him atop leading Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifiers, he now finds himself a part of The Colorado Rockies Player Development System as a Scouting Special Assistant.
With fifty-plus years of experience in the game of baseball at the highest level, I thank Jerry for answering our audience’s question amidst a time of significant adjustment for the game of baseball. Upon receiving this great opportunity, I wanted to hear from our audience and have their questions answered by Jerry. Dictated by your questions, this was the extent of our conversation:
What behavioral issues do you run into with players at the professional level, and what can we do as coaches when we have these players younger to foster better habits or character?
“We have fewer behavioral issues at the pro level because there is so much internal competition & there are really no fallback options. The organization has the leverage. With that being said, it’s all about choices & owning those choices realizing that there are consequences for poor choices. Transfer of blame is not an option. The key is establishing standards of behavior & consistently holding the athletes to those standards.”
What are we doing now in the industry that is hurting participation and the retention of good athletes in the game of baseball? As we witness, athletes to the likes of Kyler Murray choose not to pursue baseball professionally.
“Retention-Make it fun. Connect with the players as people & not just players. Be positive. Know what you are doing. Allow for individual differences. Be organized & have enough help to keep players moving in small groups. Short-tempo practices & games. Make it competitive. Player-centric environment. It’s more about them than the scoreboard. It’s a collaborative effort between players, coaches & parents.”
What are your thoughts on the game of baseball missing out on talented players with the shortened draft and college rosters overflowing? With 1,525 draft selections in 2010 and only 160 in 2020…
Professional baseball does not miss very often. Maybe they don’t get slotted the way they end up, but good players do not go unseen. If they are playing somewhere, they will be seen. It may be in an Indy League where many late bloomers & players from lower-profile programs thrive. If they have tools or are playing up to professional standards, they will be seen. The problem lies in the fact that we are losing a lot of the better athletes to other sports. We need to do a better job of attracting those athletes & retaining them. MLB is making a real effort in that area in the inner cities with its RBI program. I’m concerned that the current Travel Team movement has priced a lot of the economically challenged families out.
I want to once again thank Jerry for his priceless insight and wisdom. His generosity in answering these questions I know will go a long way for our audience memebers. The game of baseball, perhaps having always faced unprecedented times, now faces reconstruction and rebranding efforts post pandemic. With the universal designated hitter (DH) now active in both the American and Nation League, the game of baseball now looks to another evolution in rules for greater growth amongst fan bases and most imporantly, youth. Baseball’s ability to keep promising athletes in the sport will set the horizon the future of baseball is destined for.
The San Francisco Giants 107 Win Season Should Be Remembered for More Than Painful Ending
Recapping the Incredible Run of the 2021 San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants season came to an end in game 5 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers this past week.
The game ended in San Francisco with the Giants down just one run on a check swing appealed and called a strike against the hot bat of Wilmer Flores. It is by no means a surprise that much of sports media has run with the Giants’ season-ending call.
Some even rank the Giants among the top teams in MLB history to have the most painful season-ending loss. But the fact of the matter is the ’21 Giants might have pulled off one of the most impressive seasons in MLB History.
From the resurrection of Buster Posey to the resurgence of past greats like Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, Gabe Kapler’s squad should be beyond proud of their efforts. Kapler not only led his team to 107 wins after the team had finished with losing records for the last four years but utilized vital players off the bench like Donovan Solana and Austin Slater to plot many late-inning comebacks.
The ’21 Giants also saw the birth of unlikely heroes unforeseen going in Spring Training like Kris Bryant, who was picked up at the trade deadline, and LaMonte Wade Jr., whose late-inning heroics all year, earned him the title “Late Night Lamonte.”
Overall, to let the Giant’s season go to waste or be manipulated to provoke fan and public reaction because of one “highly disputed” call would be an act of great injustice. The fact also remains that no one game comes down to any single call; the Giants had missed out on multiple scoring opportunities before the 2-1 deficit.
And at the end of the day, the Dodgers had just played better baseball that evening; Gabe Kapler said after the game, “I have no regrets, congratulations to that very talented squad on the other side.” We hope to acknowledge the magic the San Francisco Giants created this season for the fans and world of baseball and remind people never to be swayed by the narratives of “BLOWN CALL RUINS SEASON” columns and tabloids. Congratulations to the 2021 San Francisco Giants!