I would like to thank everyone who has been praying in this process! God showed up big at FCI Greenville in Greenville Illinois! Our team had been looking forward to last weekend for months. Here is a recap of the last few days:
Friday morning- Several members of the team take the day off in anticipation of the weekend. We hit around at Bradley park and took some infield practice. The team’s starting third-basemen drops 3 easy pop-ups but everyone there has his back!
Friday evening- We had an all team meeting discussing what our day would look like. We broke down several elements of the day such as security, managing equipment, finally playing the game, the preaching time, literature distribution, and how to talk with the inmates. Everyone leaves the meeting ready to play that evening!
Saturday morning- For those of us who have been talking about this since September, this is Christmas morning! Uniforms are on, equipment is ready, and vehicles are fueled up and ready to go! We meet as a team to pray for the safety of our team, the reception of the inmates, and the well-being of our families that we are leaving behind. It is raining in Peoria while we are heading east on I-74. It is still raining when we stop at McDonalds between Lincoln and Springfield. It is still raining as we are passing the “Welcome to Greenville” sign, however the sun is out and there is no rain at the prison as we pull up and prepare for a day of 4 softball games! We went through security and walked out the iron gate into the dorm area and through another iron gate into the recreation yard. We were met by several handshakes and guys welcoming us to the yard. After getting our equipment set up and after some warm up tosses, we were ready to start our game! There were about 300 men lined up around the field. The crowd was loud and several of them were heckling us! As Brent Gerber took his first at-bat someone yelled out “You Stink!” (another work might have been used for stink!). The guys around the backstop had fun messing with us. Brent had a 3 run homer that game and Kurt Hand hit two homers that first game. We won the first game 15-12! On a personal note, I was glad to get that first win. It was important to know that we can compete with these guys in prison. On a more important level, it was important to get the win and earn the respect of the opposing team and the inmates watching the game. I had the chance to talk with several men in the yard and hand out literature between games. The first guy I talked with was already a believer. He was discouraged by his time he had to do but he was encouraged to see us come out and spend time with him and the rest of the inmates. We came out a little flatter in the second game and dropped it 14-12. As we were a couple of blocks away from the facility, it began to pour rain! We went to a local Subway for an hour and watched it rain. We went back to the facility only to find that it had not rained there at all! God is good and had a plan for that day! We played games 3 and 4 against the “A” team of the facility. We had a little trouble keeping up and dropped the final two games of the day. Brent Gerber did make the best catch I’ve seen in left field. We definitely lost the game and perhaps some of the respect we had built, however, it was an awesome experience. Every guy on the inmate team shook our hands and thanked us for coming. The best compliment we got was a guy saying that it was nice to “get away from it all” for two hours.
Everyone on the team played a huge part in the day! Jim Culver, Nate Terry, Corky Schumacher, and Darrell Pine played huge factors in ministry during the day. If they weren’t in the ball game, they were telling someone about the same Jesus who saved them! It was a huge blessing to be around those men for an entire day.
It was also a huge privilege to have veteran Saints Frank Zeidler, Don Conner and Tom Carberry along for the trip. Frank has been a huge support and mentor as we have been getting this team off of the ground. He is a ministry machine and loves to tell people about his Lord and Savior. Don is a Saints legend who traveled all of the way from New Jersey to be with our team that day. Tom Carberry provided solid defense, a wicked swing, leadership, and a love for the men there that I hope to match someday.