by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach
I was almost at the peak of my excitement level as I prepared for the New Mexico crusade this past April… when the email came telling me that the crusade had been cancelled! Thanks to the Crusade mode in the new “RBI Baseball 2019” video game, however, I was able to live out a week of prison ministry from my living room. Here’s what happened…
Day One: Travel and Atomic Springs State Prison
Six Saints show up in New Mexico. Why is that? Because the rest of the team is stuck at O’Hare, Hartsfield-Jackson, and Philly International! Ted Schnitzel (PA) was ticketed on a different flight than the rest of the team but he assures everyone he knows what he’s doing, and he will meet them in NM. The six Saints that did make it win the game that night. Unfortunately, Cogs (the only man to make it out of Atlanta) had to play left-center and right-center field and is now on the injured list for the rest of the trip! One highlight is we fed the team all day for $67 and Frank is now pushing for six-man softball teams as the new model going forward!
Day Two: El Guapo Correctional Center
Most of the team arrives and even with 10 guys, Tim Travis has to play all four outfield spots, run for three injured teammates, and ultimately racks up 84 total miles on the day. In other news, he ended up qualifying for a spot in the Boston Marathon to be held a week later! During dinner, Rodney (GA) and Gibby (IL) get into a bench-clearing brawl over sweet tea vs. unsweet tea at the local Cracker Barrel. Warnings were issued to both sides of the tea debate and Gibby and Rodney are ejected from the Cracker Barrel! They are forced to only order water the rest of the trip. As the rest of the team is sitting around a cactus and doing evening devotions, Teddy is still stranded in Philly. He tried to pass the time by serving free soup to stranded travelers…until the TGI Fridays manager found him and kicked him out of the kitchen!
Day Three: Mulder County Correctional Facility
On our way to the prison, we pick up a bearded man with a cardboard sign who is looking for work and appears to be homeless. We get him a jersey and let him drive the van. He insists on pitching overhand and we win three out of four games on the day! Later on after dinner, we find out the bearded stranger is unemployed free agent Craig Kimbrel. He tells us that he has to leave because surely the Chicago Cubs will be calling at any moment. There is no way they can start the season with the bullpen they currently have: they would get to June tied for 2nd in blown saves…which of course they did! Gibby agrees and says “adios”! Teddy is still stranded in Philly but he finally talks the ground crew into hitting him some ground balls on the runway.
Day Four: Woodrow Wilson Middle School
Unfortunately we couldn’t find a prison in which to minister but after working the phones, we did find an elementary school that had a special speaker cancel at the last minute. We take the gig without knowing much about it. It turns out the topic is a “birds-and-the-bees” talk with a bunch of 8th graders. As we discussed our options, an Uber pulls up and out steps…Teddy! He pulled off a Planes, Trains, and Automobiles journey just in time to draw the short straw and deliver “the talk” to a group of mortified teens – and immature, giggling softball players. We go 2-0 against the 8th grade kickball team.
Day Five: Airport…or…?
Checking out and catching our flights was the plan. As we began the checkout process a Mustang enters the parking lot, driven by none other than Cliff Goller. Cliff was working in El Paso, TX overseeing the building of The Wall. The Wall is off to a slow start because work is stopped every few hours as Cliff takes batting practice, hitting the ball over the wall and into the nearby village of Palomas, Mexico. At that same moment Cliff pulled up, we received a frantic call from Estevez Prison Facility. We accept the invite and hastily try to add Cliff to the roster but the prison official replied, “Say no more, we know who he is!” We arrive at the prison on time, but several guys go through security in shorts and flip flops, while others brought their boarding pass instead of their license! Despite the confusion and hustle we manage to split the doubleheader! Alas, the tale of the Crusade that never was… but we did well in my living room!