Baseball, Character, and Faith

Share the post "St. Charles: Mike Matheny – The Matheny Manifesto" There are two ends of the spectrum when it comes to sports: they are detested or idolized.  While I don’t consider myself a sports fanatic, I do enjoy and follow baseball and I also enjoy playing other sports with my children.  I believe playing a sport is one of the things in life that, if done correctly, can be good for a person in several ways.  When it comes to parenting, for example, sports are sometimes helpful because they can teach a child teamwork, loyalty, patience, how to lose, and so forth.  If you’re a parent who is into sports or a coach of a sport, here’s a book you’ll want to get: The Matheny Manifesto by St. Louis Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny.

Matheny spent 13 years behind the plate in Major League baseball.  Because of the abuse catcher’s take behind the plate, Matheny had to quit the game because of a concussion (or concussions).  He then started coaching little league baseball, starting the season with a letter to the parents that is now called “The Matheny Manifesto” – the letter which the book builds upon.  Matheny grew up in a Christian home and his Christian principles now influence his coaching and training methods.  The book discusses Matheny’s story along with his methods.

Here’s how the book is divided: First, Matheny talks about some problems in youth baseball (though it certainly applies to other sports).  One of the main problems, he says, is parents!  I also appreciated the advice his dad gave him: The coach is always right, even when he’s wrong.  That is, the coach is the authority, and deserves respect. Parents can do their kid a favor by staying calm in the stands and respecting the coach’s decisions.

Second, Matheny is more constructive: he gives a way forward to coach kids in such a way that building character comes before winning a game.  Following John Wooden, he notes that typically building character results in winning games, but winning  a game is not the ultimate goal.  Matheny’s core goals for his little league team were service, teamwork, discipline, excellence, responsibility, and leadership.  He says that even though umpires make mistakes on calls, he does not allow his players to disrespect the umpire at all, or they will face consequences (again, respect authority!).  I also appreciated how Matheny says kids (and all of us!) learn more from failure than success, so losing isn’t the worst thing in the world.  Building again on Wooden, Matheny says his players should do the right thing just because it’s the right thing to do – and that is more important than the final score.

In the third part of the book, Matheny discusses the keys to success.  “Success” in this context isn’t winning and demolishing the opponent, but growing more mature as a person.  In this section, these principles are explained: leadership, confidence, teamwork, faith, class, character, toughness, and humility.  I enjoyed this section, because Matheny mentioned these principles in a way that applied not just to baseball or sports, but to life as well.  Although he doesn’t quote verses left and right, it is clear that there are biblical principles in Matheny’s methods.  He says “My goal is to live in such a way that what I believe is obvious by how I go about my business and how I treat others.”

This book isn’t a deep theological book, nor is it a long book on the nuts and bolts of coaching.  But it is a book that will make you reflect on biblical ethics and how they relate to sports.  Sports are beneficial if viewed and approached in the right way.  This book helps on that way: The Matheny Manifesto by Mike Matheny.

(I received this book for the purposes of a review, but was not compelled to write a positive review.)

shane lems
hammond, wi


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