When he looked into their hearts, he saw kingdoms and miracles.
When I was in the 7th grade, I was drafted to play in major league baseball. Going from the minors to the majors was a big deal, especially for those of us in Little League. Some of my peers were drafted when they were in the 6th grade, but not me. I was a little guy, about 65 pounds. A man named Keith Jones had the last round draft pick and he picked me. Yes, that’s right, I was the last round draft pick. I’m not sure if Coach Jones had any other choice, but at least I was chosen.
My team was the Indians and I was number 71. There were two uniforms that were number 7, so I asked if I could put a “1” after my “7.” Coach loved calling my number.
Coach’s team always came in first place. So every year, he always got the last round draft pick. But no matter how bad his kids were at the beginning of the season, they always came in first at the end. I couldn’t wait to be a part of his team and be made into a champion.
From the start, his techniques were a bit unusual. First of all, we didn’t practice at one of the usual baseball fields where every other Little League team held its practices. Coach told us to meet in a forest preserve, away from all the other teams, parents, and distractions. In fact, we didn’t even practice on a regular baseball field; we used an open plain in the middle of the woods. Second, Coach made us run; I had never been asked to run by my baseball coach before—this was very strange. After we ran, third, coach had cookies waiting for us when we returned. Again, I had never had a coach that gave us cookies. Every practice that year was the same: woods, running, cookies.
Early in the season, Coach asked me what position I wanted to play. With all the testosterone that a 65 pound kid could muster, I responded, “catcher.” His eyebrows shrunk over his eyes and he pursed his lips in thought. Playing catcher was a big responsibility and a lot of hard work. Usually the big guys played catcher. In fact, the Indians already had an All Star catcher named Travis, who was built like a tank. Travis’ neck was as wide as his head and his chest was like a barrel.
“But we have a great catcher already,” Coach responded. I hung my head in disappointment. Seeing my reaction, he added, “Why don’t you go practice with him and let him show you how it’s done.”
I was so excited; he was giving me a chance. I started practicing with Travis and before long, Coach had me catching for the team during our games.
Our team went on to get first place that year and several of us made the All Star Team at the end of the year. And, oh yeah, I was the catcher.
There are a few lessons that I’ve learned from Coach Jones. The main lesson is to believe in others, to see potential in 65 pound weaklings, even when they do not believe in themselves.
When Jesus was a rabbi, the usual custom was for the students to select the rabbi they wanted to study under. A student would select a rabbi like Gamaliel, for instance, and ask to become his follower. The rabbis, in turn, drafted the best students they could, those who would make them proud and add to their popularity.
But Jesus did things completely different. He was the winning Coach who chose his players first, even the most unlikely. Jesus didn’t choose the finest students; he chose the failing fishermen, who lived as lower middleclass citizens, just trying to get by.
He believed in them more than they believed in themselves. When he looked into their hearts, he saw kingdoms and miracles and revolutions, not just fishermen. He chose the ones who everyone else passed over, seeking them before they had a chance to do anything else with their lives.
This means that we are always in danger of being drafted by Jesus. He doesn’t wait around for us to get our spiritual act together and come knocking on his door. He comes to us at the most inconvenient of times, even in the middle of “life,” and says, “Drop your net at follow me!” (Matthew 4:21).
His standards are incredibly low, too. He’ll take murderers, thieves, prostitutes, con artists, crazy men and women, kids, blue-collar, no-collar, low dollar, the guilty, the caught, the crying, prisoners, peasants, foul-mouthed, mute, crippled, blind, diseased, outcast, foreign, fatherless, OCD, lazy, heck, he’ll even take you if you’re dead.
These are the kinds of people whose lives he interrupts, asking them to follow him. If you wonder if you made his list, just know that he starts at the bottom of it; and he catches all kinds of people for himself.
© Samuel Kee, 2011
 I could back up each of these with a Scripture reference!