Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Relationality Again: Affirmation at Tampa Bay

David Price is presently a relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays that have just won the American League Pennant. Price is a 23-year-old rookie with just eight major league appearances to his name. He was brought into the final game with the Red Sox in the eighth inning and his team clinging to a 3-1 lead with the bases loaded and two outs. He was handed the ball and struck out J.D. Drew to end the threat of the inning. He proceeded to strike out another two in the ninth and forced a ground out to end the game.

Hard as a rock and cool as a cucumber.

What’s behind it? Price was affirmed as a person and as a player by his coach at Vanderbilt, Tim Corbin.

What is the metaphysics? God is totally personal. There is nothing “in” God that is not Person. And Person “in” God is to be “for” the other. The Father is the act of engendering the Son. The Son is the act of obeying and glorifying the Father. The Spirit is the personification of the two. As it is revealed that the human person is created in the image and likeness of the Son, the fulfillment and flourishing of the human person precisely as unique and unrepeatable person – “I” – depends on being loved and affirmed so as to be able to love and affirm.

The metaphysics of this has barely seen the light of day. Human rational perception has been dominated – perhaps almost forever – by visual perception. We visualize things as discrete things and we conceptualize them as discrete things that are “substantial” in themselves. Relation is accidental to discrete substantial things and becomes a secondary metaphysical interest.

This was precisely the point of Ratzinger’s presentation of the revolution that has to take place in thought at this moment. Recall that he said:
“Therein lies concealed a revolution in man’s view of the world: the sole dominion of thinking in terms of substance is ended; relation is discovered as an equally valid primordial mode of reality. It becomes possible to surmount what we call today ‘objectifying thought,’ a new plane of being comes into view. It is probably true to say the task imposed on philosophy as a result of these facts is far from being completed – so much does modern thought depend on the possibilities thus disclosed, without which it would be inconceivable.”[1]

* * * * * * * * *

That said, Tim Corbin “has an annual routine in which he takes his incoming recruits and just as they expect him to be Mr. Coach, he becomes Mr. Science.

“Corbin takes a marshmallow, a jelly bean and a rock and with puzzled eyes upon him, places them under a flame. The marshmallow melts from the heat; the jelly bean holds up briefly before disintegrating; and the rock – well, the rock is a rock.

“Price is an admitted former marshmallow. He said Corbin and his assistant coaches turned him into the stone-faced presence he is today….
“Soon after Price arrives in Nashville in 2004 from Murfreesboro, Tenn., about 35 miles down interstate 24, he started getting hit around both on the mound and in the classroom. The next January, he walked into Corbin’s office with what Corgin recalled as ‘puffy eyes.’

“Basically, he told me that he was going to quit,’ Corbin said. He looked at me and said, ‘I can’t do the schoolwork here, and I’m not good enough to pitch here.’ I could tell he was coming unraveled mentally because of all of the things coming at him at once.

“I talked with him for an hour and was confirming to him that he was in the right place, and these things happen to many people, he was not alone. A lot of things were going to change, and this was just a proving ground in his development as a person and baseball player. After I was done he gave me a hug like he wouldn’t let go. That was the last time I ever had to talk to him about confidence.”

Price’s inner marshmallow fossilized over those three years and he evolved into a baseball scout’s dream – a 6-foot-6 left hander with a mid-90’s fastball with movement, a biting slider and, all but overnight, beyond-his-years poise. Descriptions of him as a young, left-handed John Smoltz were not unreasonable.”

The next huge step of affirmation was Coach Madden putting Price into the game at that point. “‘For him to have that confidence in me,’ Price said, ‘and to show everybody in the world that he’s putting a 23-year-old lefty that’s pitched in seven games in his major league career out there to try and stop a rally for the Red Sox with the bases loaded in the eighth inning, that was awesome.’”[2]

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (2004) 184.
[2] NYT 10/22/08 Sports.

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