When I was a kid, I played little league baseball and loved it. I wasn’t very good, but I had my moments. I blossomed a bit more as a player as I got older. But I did learn how to be a gentleman on the field from our coach, a wonderful man, named Bob Hornbeck.
Coach was a great guy and always kept his cool. He was always graceful to the other coaches and would thank the umpires afterwards. Even when he argued I don’t think his voice ever raised, even when we once had a major beef when someone nearly tackled one of our base runners.
In short, everyone said he was the nicest of all the coaches in the league.
He has two kids who were my contemporaries, Kim and Bobby. He lost his wife several years ago.
Kim asked for some prayers today because coach isn’t doing too well these days. He’s hoping to make his next birthday in a few months but it’s not clear if that can happen.
I remember one strong memory with Coach. I had a great tryout that year smacking a ball over the Center Field wall in a makeshift school gym. So they threw me with the older kids but I was the last one to be cut. So I went back and nobody had told Coach that I was coming. He wasn’t sure if I was where I was supposed to be. So he got the other guys registered and told me to hold on. I thought there would be no chance of getting a spot on the team. But coach made sure I had a spot.
“Nobody’s playing third.” He asked me, ” You think you can play third?”
The thought of this now makes me laugh. I had no arm, but coach put me there anyway. I did OK, I guess. Coach always found a way to let me play.
He also let his daughter play on our team, which was unheard of in those days.
He took us to the championship that year and I woke up that morning and couldn’t walk. I still don’t know what happened, but my knee was in pain and buckling and I missed that game. We lost. And I really felt like I let him down. He assured me that I hadn’t later in the week and was just happy that I was OK.
Coaches have always been influential in my life. But Coach Hornbeck taught me how to be a gentleman. And that was a lot more important than learning how to hit a curve.
So today, if you’ve got a prayer pray with me for Coach Bob.
Lord, bring peace and comfort to my coach. Who brought peace and comfort to me and to his fine family. Give him the calm that he always exuded. And allow him to rest easy in these remaining days for him. Bring comfort too to Kim and Bobby. Allow them to recall wonderful memories with their father as they visit and to embrace him and feel the love that families have to offer each other.
But mostly Lord, let us be grateful for all that you made Bob Hornbeck to be. And as we gather around your table, you unite all of us together from across the ages. Bob was strengthened by that. May we too be strengthened by that as well. And may it bring all of us peace as we pray that Bob be free of pain and peacefully live out these days with his family. Coach him, Lord. Root for him. Console him in the small losses of old age.
And Lord, if you call Bob home in these days, welcome him into the glory of your kingdom and grant him forgiveness, peace and consolation.
We ask all of this through Christ our Lord. Amen.