Texas Rangers

Friday Five: Remembering RHE, exiting Catholics, Pakistani Christian trafficking, fact-checking satire

Friday Five: Remembering RHE, exiting Catholics, Pakistani Christian trafficking, fact-checking satire

This is one of those weeks when I’m putting together Friday Five after not paying a whole lot of attention to the news.

So if I miss something really crucial, blame it on my “bucket list” baseball trip to see my beloved Texas Rangers play the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pittsburgh’s PNC Park is the 23rd major-league stadium where I’ve seen a game. Of course, four of those ballparks (old Atlanta, New York Mets, St. Louis and Texas) no longer exist, so I have 11 left on my bucket list. The new Rangers stadium next year will make that 12. 

OK, that’s enough for now, but feel free to tweet me at @bobbyross for more baseball talk.

In the meantime, let’s dive into the (distracted) Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: Rachel Held Evans’ untimely death at age 37 was the major headline of the week.

The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey, the New York Times’ Elizabeth Dias, The Atlantic’s Emma Green, Religion News Service’s Emily McFarlan Miller and Slate’s Ruth Graham all covered the sad, sad news of Evans’ passing.

Here at GetReligion, Terry Mattingly wrote a post on the importance of focusing on doctrines, not political choices, in coverage of Evans’ legacy. And Julia Duin voiced her opinion that Evans’ death offered “a rare look at journalistic grief.”

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'Born-again' baseball star's arrest on child sexual assault charge raises a journalistic question

'Born-again' baseball star's arrest on child sexual assault charge raises a journalistic question

"This is truly, truly an awful story to report,” tweeted a Dallas Morning News sportswriter involved in the coverage of a child sexual abuse charge against former baseball star John Wetteland.

Actually, it’s beyond awful.

It’s sickening, especially for a diehard Texas Rangers fan like myself who remembers cheering for Wetteland and appreciating his focus on his Christian faith.

According to the Dallas newspaper, the former closer is accused of sexually abusing a young child:

Wetteland, 52, is accused of continuous sexual abuse of a child under the age of 14, according to Denton County jail records. The Trophy Club resident posted $25,000 bond and was released from custody the same day as his arrest.

He had forced a young relative to perform a sex act on him, according to the arrest warrant affidavit, beginning in 2004 when the child was just four years old.

The abuse occurred at Wetteland's home in Bartonville, the affidavit stated. It happened twice more over a two-year period, the victim said.

And sadly, there is a strong and absolutely relevant religion angle as Wetteland — who was the 1996 World Series MVP while pitching for the New York Yankees — is well-known for touting his Christian beliefs.

“Wetteland Is Just a Closer Who Walks With the Lord,” declared a 1995 New York Times sports column.

That column opened this way:

John Wetteland is drinking coffee from a large mug with the words "Jesus Lives" emblazoned across it in big, black letters. He grins and nods when someone comments on the mug. His Bible is resting on a shelf in his locker and he has a personal computer at his disposal so he can retrieve morning devotionals from an on-line program and pray before the Yankees begin another day of baseball.

"I honestly try and walk with Jesus Christ every day," he said, describing his most important relationship, more important than his relationship with his wife.

Obviously, the facts of the criminal case are the most important element of the news reports on Wetteland’s arrest.

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Love for people drives major-league catcher to help, but what role does his faith play?

Love for people drives major-league catcher to help, but what role does his faith play?

Was it a good movie?

Did you enjoy it?

Those tend to be my main two questions in assessing the latest flick at the theater.

I don't pay a lot of attention to film critics because they tend — from my perspective — to nitpick various details that don't matter much to me. They're paid to find fault.

What does that have to do with GetReligion? Well, as a media critic for this journalism-focused website, my job calls upon me to spot holy ghosts in mainstream press stories and point them out for readers. But occasionally, I fear that I'm demanding a level of religious specificity that is no concern to ordinary readers.

Thus, when I read a story like a recent Dallas Morning News feature on good works by Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos, I'm unsure whether to (1) just be thankful for a nice piece that goes behind the scenes of a charitable player or (2) complain that the paper fails to offer any concrete details on the subject's obvious faith.

I mean, given the circumstances, it's not difficult for most readers to assume that Chirinos must be a Christian (something that the "Servant of Christ" mention on his Twitter profile quicks confirms):

ARLINGTON -- He had just signed his first professional contract. The scouts who signed him had just left his home. He was 16. His father, Roberto, told Robinson Chirinos to pull up a chair at the family's kitchen table.

"Never forget about people," Roberto Chirinos told him.

He never has.

Robinson Chirinos was telling the story again Saturday afternoon after spending the morning, along with more than half of the Rangers' roster, handing out backpacks as part of a Back To School Block party at the Refuge Church in Fort Worth.

The event taking place at a church is a pretty obvious clue, as is the additional context offered in the next few paragraphs:

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Grab a tissue before reading this: A young Astros fan got a home run ball, and this is why it's so special

Grab a tissue before reading this: A young Astros fan got a home run ball, and this is why it's so special

I love baseball, even though my beloved Texas Rangers didn't make the playoffs this season.

As a Texas fan, I'm finding it especially difficult to root for either team in the American League Championship Series. That best-of-seven series, tied 2-2 heading into today's Game 5, pits the Evil Empire (the New York Yankees) vs. the Rangers' in-state rival (the Houston Astros). I don't suppose there's any way that both teams could lose, is there?

But seriously, folks ...

My friend David, a minister in Houston, alerted me to a tear-jerking feature story about a young Astros fan who ended up with a home run ball. This story almost makes me want to root for Houston. Almost.

The piece ran at the top of the Houston Chronicle's front page today. And yes, there's a religion angle. More on that in a moment.

"I don't know if you saw this, but it brought me to tears in public when I read it," David said. "Great writing."

Although I subscribe to the Chronicle, I hadn't read it yet today, so I appreciated my friend calling my attention to this story.

The lede:

When Amanda Riley arrived at Minute Maid Park for Game 1 of the Astros-Yankees American League Championship Series, she couldn't contain her tears.
"We walk in, and all I'm seeing are families and dads holding their sons up," Riley said. "The whole time all I could think about was that we're there as a family, too, but we're missing one."
Four weeks earlier, 15-year-old Cade Riley — Amanda and Mike Riley's oldest son — died in an all-terrain vehicle accident on a trail near the family's home in Liberty Hill.
Since then, Amanda, Mike and their son Carson had trouble finding the motivation to leave the house as a family.
Mike knew it was time, and he made a decision that put his family directly in the path of a crucial Carlos Correa home run and made their youngest son the center of media attention and the object of Astros players' affection. 

Keep reading, and the Chronicle offers relevant details on how the family ended up at two ALCS games in Houston last week — and on the providential circumstances that seemed to surround their time at Minute Maid Park. No, the newspaper never uses the phrase "providential circumstances," but the family's quotes make no doubt that they see them as such.

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Baseball ghostbusters: Digging deeper into the faith of Texas Rangers third base coach who beat cancer

Baseball ghostbusters: Digging deeper into the faith of Texas Rangers third base coach who beat cancer

In the fourth grade, I discovered Topps baseball cards. I’d buy as many I could afford, chewing the crunchy bubble gum inside each 20-cent pack and memorizing the stats of all my favorite players. I eventually sold my card collection, but I remain a passionate fan of Major League Baseball.

In my teen years, my family moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and I fell in love with the Texas Rangers. As an adult, I’ve experienced America’s favorite pastime at 19 of the 30 big-league ballparks. I eventually hope to make it to all of them, including the one at the top of my bucket list: Wrigley Field in Chicago.

My work as a journalist has taken me inside clubhouses at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Calif., Comerica Park in Detroit, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, Minute Maid Park in Houston, Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., and Progressive Field in Cleveland.

Like me, GetReligion's editor, Terry Mattingly, is an avid baseball fan, so we sometimes compete to see which one of us can write the most baseball-related posts with the fewest number of readers. I kid. I kid. 

But seriously, our sports posts (with a few notable exceptions) don't typically go viral. Based on this journalism-focused website's analytics, most of our readers tend to be more interested in holy ghosts tied to politics and the culture wars. However, we believe it's important to keep pointing out God-sized holes in media coverage of college and professional athletics.

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'He did it!' -- MLB coach beats cancer, but media remain vague on faith that sustained him

'He did it!' -- MLB coach beats cancer, but media remain vague on faith that sustained him

"People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” — Rogers Hornsby

• • •

Is it time yet for pitchers and catchers to report?

I've mentioned a time or 500 how much I love baseball. Since I was a 14-year-old boy going to see my first major-league game, the Texas Rangers have been my favorite team.

Last week, I was pleased to see some wonderful news on the Twitter feed of my beloved Rangers. This news was enough to warm a fan's heart in the cold of winter: After an 11-month battle with cancer, Texas third-base coach Tony Beasley received a clean bill of health.

And yes — just in case baseball isn't a spiritual enough undertaking for you in its own right — there's a religion angle to Beasley's recovery.

That Fort Worth Star-Telegram headline — "Faith deepens for Rangers coach Beasley during bout with cancer" — gave me hope about the potential contents of the story.

As some GetReligion readers — particularly the baseball fans — may recall, I voiced frustration last summer about vague treatment of Beasley's faith by sportswriters:

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Battling cancer, major-league coach puts faith into action — but what exactly does that mean?

Battling cancer, major-league coach puts faith into action — but what exactly does that mean?

This is an inspiring story.

For those concerned about holy ghosts in the mainstream press, it's also a frustrating story.

I'm talking about a heart-tugging feature from the Dallas Morning News on a major-league coach battling cancer.

As a longtime Texas Rangers fan, I'm particularly drawn to this emotional profile by one of my favorite baseball writers. The subhead on the print version noted that third-base coach Tony Beasley sees his cancer ordeal "as a chance to put faith into action."

ARLINGTON -- This is how he has spent his season: chemotherapy treatment during spring training, five weeks of radiation in April and May and, in the next week, a five-hour surgical procedure to remove the remnants of a tumor from his bowel.
And this is how Tony Beasley describes the year: "My most rewarding in baseball."
Beasley is the Rangers' third-base coach in title, but he's had to move into more of a quality-control role for this season during a fight with cancer that is stretching into its eighth month. The disease may have turned his role upside down, but he'll be damned if it's going to do the same to him.
"It doesn't sound right to [call it rewarding] when you are dealing with a disease; you don't relate that to a reward," Beasley said. "But there has been so much good on so many fronts.
"Somebody once told me not to see obstacles, only opportunities. And this has given me the opportunity to be the man who I said I am. I've always said I'm a man of faith, but we can say things and not live it. This has given me a chance to live it. I'm thankful if people have had a chance to see it."

That's powerful writing, but I want to know more about Beasley's faith.

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Feature on inspirational Texas Rangers fan is a joy to read, except for a holy ghost

Feature on inspirational Texas Rangers fan is a joy to read, except for a holy ghost

I shared the story of how I fell in love with the Texas Rangers in a 2006 Christian Chronicle column titled "For love of God, family and baseball":

The stadium felt like a furnace — think obnoxious Texas heat in early July — when I walked into my first major-league baseball game at age 14.
By then, of course, I was already a big baseball fan, with thousands of baseball cards, an autographed picture of Pete Rose and a dream of growing up to do radio play-by-play. For all the hours I had spent watching televised games and poring over newspaper box scores, though, I had never actually been to a game. 
But in 1982, my family moved to Dallas-Fort Worth, and a heaven with the greenest grass I had ever seen beckoned us. 
We made it to our bleacher seats in the bottom of the first inning, just as Texas Rangers slugger Larry Parrish stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. That Saturday was “Bat Day,” so 10,000 wooden bats banged thunderously against the concrete and the crowd roared at an obscene decibel as the ball sailed over the fence — a grand slam!
A young lifetime of rooting for the Cincinnati Reds suddenly vanished. I fell in love with the Rangers that day. (They have won exactly one playoff game since.) 

In the decade since I wrote that column, my Rangers have provided me with more than a few postseason thrills. They advanced to the World Series in 2010 and 2011 (please don't mention Game 6). And they rode a #NeverEverQuit mindset to an improbable American League West Division championship this season.

Alas, the 2015 season ended in brutal fashion Wednesday in Game 5 of the AL Division Series against the Toronto Blue Jays:

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Prodigal son Josh Hamilton's return to the Texas Rangers: What role is faith playing?

Prodigal son Josh Hamilton's return to the Texas Rangers: What role is faith playing?

As I mentioned in my first GetReligion post five-plus years ago — and a few zillion times since then — I am a big Texas Rangers fan.

Last week, my three children and I drove down to Globe Life Park in Arlington and enjoyed Josh Hamilton's first two games back with the Rangers:

By Sunday — when Hamilton hit a walk-off double against the Boston Red Sox to cap a spectacular first weekend back in Texas — we were back home in Oklahoma.

Why do I bring up the Rangers and Hamilton here at GetReligion? 

Because where Hamilton is concerned, faith is a huge angle. Way back in 2008, Evan Grant, who covers the Rangers for The Dallas Morning News, wrote:

SMITHFIELD, N.C. - Faith. It comes up often in the story of 26-year-old Joshua Holt Hamilton. It's virtually impossible to tell his story without mentioning his Christian faith. He'd prefer you not even try.

Faith, he regularly testifies, has put him back in baseball after four years of addiction problems so ugly you can't blame his family for not wanting to relive them. Because of faith they do - to churches, youth groups and halfway houses.

If Hamilton could shake his habit - it included downing a bottle of Crown Royal almost daily and cocaine and crack cravings so strong he burned through a $3.96 million signing bonus - and finally get to the big leagues last season, there had to be a reason.

But in the wake of recent drama involving Hamilton — his drug relapse over the winter, his impending divorce from his wife, his trade from the Los Angeles Angels back to Texas — I haven't seen anyone ask the slugger about God. (I did see a gold cross hanging from his neck after his jersey was ripped off in the celebration after Sunday's win.)

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