Tag Archives: Inside the Mind of Gibby

Inside the Mind of Gibby

How to go from Locked Out to Locked In
by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

Now that the Major League lockout is over, I’m glad I can get back to preparing to watch my beloved Chicago Cubs rise from the ashes of being a sub .500 team in 2021 to being a slightly better sub .500 team in 2022. I’m part of the Illinois softball team, and we are in a little bit of a lockout ourselves as we are still waiting for some of the COVID restrictions on volunteers to lift. After watching MLB struggle to reach a deal, I began to wonder what it would look like if they had simply called the Saints Prison Ministry to fix their labor dispute. L

ook, I’ve got to be upfront. We are a non-profit ministry…literally, non-profit in the truest sense of the word… so our ideas for how to help a multi-billion-dollar industry settle a labor dispute are going to be a little outside of the box. Since I have some spare time, here is how I would have solved the labor issues and gotten the season started sooner!

Idea #1- Schedule 4 Games a Day

Here me out on this one. Our teams will often play 4 games in one day on a prison visit. This allows us to see multiple groups of inmates and share the Gospel more than once. Just think of how well this would work out for the Big Leaguers! You play 4 games a day, and the 162-game season is over by the second week in May! The World Series would be played Memorial Day weekend and BOOM! You’re back to the offseason!

Idea #2- Help Players Write Support Letters

Are you an MLB owner who is having trouble filling your 40,000-seat taxpayer-funded stadium? Are you trying hard to find a TV deal that offers maximum exposure to the team while providing a good revenue stream? Here is the answer to all of your problems. Have your players write support letters! Our missionary-athletes write support letters every year to help pay for ministry and travel expenses. If it works for us, it will surely work for them!

Idea #3- No more 5a.m. Bus Times, Gas Station Food, or Layovers in Airports 800 miles away from Home

These are actually demands from our last Missionary-Athlete contract negotiation. I’m not sure how it made it onto this list. Whoopsies!

Idea #4- Hugh Dwyer will oversee the postgame spread…for all 30 MLB Teams

If this sounds like an outlandish, crazy, unreasonable request, you have obviously never met NJ softball coach Hugh Dwyer!

Idea #5- Send the Northeast Teams into the Room to just get a Deal Done

I’m from Illinois. Outside of terrible politics, we are mostly known for being polite and for being the birthplace of Betty White. In order to get this deal done, you need guys who aren’t afraid to speak their mind and not worry about hurting anyone’s feelings. 100% of the MAs from the Northeast meet this qualification! If we had sent those guys into the room, they would have come out with the deal done – and they could have talked the owners into buying Illinois a new bus!

Look, I refreshed my Twitter feed 287,755 times in March alone looking to see if a deal had been done. Next time they hopefully reach out to us for some help because baseball talk is important for the long Saints bus rides and layovers in airports 800 miles away from home…

 

Inside the Mind of Gibby – Press Start to Play!

by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

The calendar just rolled over to 2022, and our current Missionary-Athletes aren’t getting any younger. It is high time to start recruiting the next generation of MAs! We recently sent our scouting and talent acquisition team out to the church and park leagues across the nation to find some younger blood to whom we can hand the baton. Unfortunately, when we got there, we found empty softball fields and deserted church gyms because the younger generation isn’t playing rec sports; they’re all at home on the couch playing video games!

In order to reach the Xbox generation, we have quickly adjusted our strategy and are developing “Saints Prison Ministry: The Video Game.” We have no doubt it will be the hot ticket video game of 2022! Here is what is in store for the gamer:

It is Dangerous to go Alone…Take This!
Did I mention that we are all getting old at the same time? The best way to combat that is diet and exercise, BUT the second best way to combat the aging process is video game Power Ups! Just like your favorite Nintendo classics, we will have Power Ups that will boost performance and alertness over a short burst. They are the same 5-hour energy drinks that we already use during an early morning game, but we will think of a cool song to play after you drink them! We will also have a Power Up for our buses. It will be like the blue shell used in Mario Kart and it will help out while trying to navigate Atlanta’s Perimeter Highway or Philly’s Sure-kill Expressway!

Create-a-Player
One of the best features of the game is the ability to create and modify your favorite Saints player. This will make the game as realistic as you want or make some slight upgrades. Tim DiBenedetto hasn’t hit a triple since George Bush was in office… (no, the other George Bush!) But, thanks to the create-a-player, you can turn his speed up to 99 and watch him go! Gio Ortiz handles himself very well on the court but imagine if we could make a slight adjustment and make him 7’2”! The only drawback is that Butch Smith’s powered up character hits 70 home runs per season and is now wanting a $140M contract!

We are still working out the bugs…
…but our Princess is in another Castle The greatest game ever made was Super Mario Bros. 3. If you wish to disagree with me, please message me and I would be more than happy to convince you! Some of my favorite things about the game are the side quests and extra things you get to do while you make your way to defeat the evil Bowser. Our game will also include side quests; like finding a tire shop in the middle of Nowhere, IL, trying to uncover hidden Hugh Dwyer food items worth maximum points, surviving Hurricane Matthew during the 2016 South Carolina Crusade, or my personal favorite, a quest to find a place in South Florida that is open late at night and sells baseball shoes…big enough to fit 6’5” Don Conner!

With pre-order sales outpacing Minecraft and the new Legend of Zelda game, we are sure to have a generation that will be on fire about being part of the Saints Prison Ministry! Our next challenge will be teaching them to do things like hit, shoot free throws, not use their hands, and pretty much anything else to do with playing outside!

Inside the Mind of Gibby

I Think the Bears are Winning the Super Bowl

by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

It’s hard not to be excited about Chicago sports nowadays. The Cubs have won 7 games in a row and are the hottest team in baseball as of this writing. The Bears have a new rookie quarterback and are opening up their season with a prime time Sunday night game. But, in reality, the Cubs are 20 games out of first place, and the Bears will no doubt still be the Bears and will be underwhelming once again. Yes, I know the White Sox are in first place and will no doubt make a deep playoff run, but most major media outlets, including this column, still don’t care about the Sox.

As a Chicago sports fan, there is always excitement… followed by expectations… followed by inevitable disappointment. It is easy to get excited about being a Missionary-Athlete, but sometimes you need to leave some of your expectations at home.

Misplaced Expectation #147 – “We beat the prison team last year; we’ll just roll over them again this year.” Ha! Year after year, visit after visit, Crusade after Crusade, missionary athletes fall for this one over and over again! You may have played well on the field or court the last time you played this prison team but that doesn’t mean anything because the prison team has been training Rocky IV style all year long. You will be stopping for dinner tonight, but it is likely only humble pie is on the menu!

Misplaced Expectation #263 – “The guy with several kids, an overloaded work schedule, and who serves on several different church committees might join our roster this year!” This isn’t a misplaced expectation as much as it is straight up delusional! We all know the guy that would be perfect for this ministry if he just wasn’t so busy. Your only option is to move on or just kidnap him.

Misplaced Expectation #679 – “Don’t worry, the connecting flight has us landing in plenty of time to catch our next flight!” Yes, I know. I have used this quarterly article to complain to the masses about Saints travel for years, but anyone who has flown to a Crusade has experienced the pit in your stomach that only a cancelled flight can cause. If you are planning on being in Orlando at 3 pm always be ready to enjoy sight-seeing in Houston instead! If you are traveling by bus or van, be prepared to spend time in places like Discount Tire, Pep Boys, Auto Zone, AAMCO Transmissions… or a corn field in the middle of nowhere Indiana!

Misplaced Expectation #972- “Surely COVID won’t cancel two seasons in a row, right?”

It has been good to have the ministry finally get some games in this summer in Georgia, Ohio, and Florida, but, for those of us in Illinois and the Northeast, it has been tough not to have any local visits. Someday we will have some normal prison visits again but it is discouraging when Disney+ has had more seasons of the Mandalorian than we have had ministry seasons the last two years.

So, Sunday night I will be on the couch with a plate of chicken wings totally convinced that the Bears will win the Super Bowl and that Cubs will make up a 20-game deficit with 23 games left to play, but that of course will be a misplaced expectation. My only hope in avoiding this will be to misplace the TV remote!

**Editor’s Note: The Cubs didn’t close the gap and finished out of the playoffs yet again. Despite a good effort, the Bears lost their opener that Sunday night. It is our fervent prayer that Gibby still hasn’t found the remote!

 

 

Inside the Mind of Gibby – Dear Gibby

By Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

After doing this semi-humorous column for the past four years, I have collected a fair amount of fan mail. I sorted through the bag and, while there was a copious amount of complaint mail, there were some good questions for an average run-of-the-mill missionary athlete like myself.

Dear Gibby, What is your favorite prison memory?- INQUISITIVE IN IRVINE

Dear Inquisitive, It would be impossible to choose just one. I have special memories of playing softball and sharing the Gospel in places like FCI Greenville, Danville CC, Toledo CI, and Louisiana State Prison. But my most favorite recent prison memory is doing an open field tackle to tag out a runner at Avon Park CI in Florida…it was the 3rd down stop that we desperately needed!

Dear Gibby, What exactly are your plans for the extra COVID weight?- NOSEY IN NETTLETON

Dear Nosey, Putting a spin on a quote from former Philadelphia Phillies’ great, John Kruk, “Lady, I’m not an athlete, I’m a softball player!”

Dear Gibby, I’m writing in regard to your bus warranty. The warranty is up for renewal but only if you act now. Please call us at 555-3226 and please have your credit card number, social security number, mother’s maiden name, name of the street you grew up on, your MySpace.com password, and first-born child ready to renew your warranty. – LEGIT IN LEWISTOWN

Dear Legit, You sound like a great guy who likes to help people and I’m sure your credentials are impeccable , so I’d like to make you an offer! If you will please call me back with your mailing address, I will send you all the information you requested – and the title to the bus!

Dear Gibby, Who is your favorite baseball announcer? – WONDERING IN WITCHITA

Dear Witchita, Living in the Midwest, we have been blessed to hear such great voices such as Pat Hughes, Bob Uecker, Steve Stone, Jack Buck, and Ken Harrelson, but the soundtrack to my childhood is Cubs baseball with the broadcasting of Harry Caray. While he never helped me pronounce Mark Grudzielanek correctly, he helped me to have an appreciation for the fun parts of the game when you are getting beat 12-0. But to accurately answer your question, anybody but Joe Buck…

Dear Gibby, As part of a non-denominational parachurch ministry, how do people from different backgrounds get along? – FUNDAMENTAL IN FULLERTON

Dear Fundamental, this has never been an issue during my tenure with the ministry…as long as you don’t bring up music styles, Bible colleges, Bible translations, online church, smoke machines, multi-site services, pastors who wear ties, pastors who don’t wear ties, anyone who has a radio ministry, or John Piper’s Twitter account. T

hank you to everyone who has been writing in! As we return to the field this summer, I will be looking forward to more inspiring questions amidst all of the complaint mail!

Inside the Mind of Gibby – Confessions of a Useless Missionary

by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

I wish I had a more epic story about how I have spent the last 12 months. I wish I could tell you a tale of how I spent my year of social distancing at a forgotten village in the Himalayas being trained by Liam Neeson, John MacArthur, and Jedi Ghost Don Zimmer. Once the pandemic was over, I would be ready to be the best prison minister, missionary athlete, and vigilante of all time. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything quite that interesting.

But even in the pandemic, God chose to encourage me as a missionary athlete. One of the highlights of my past year was attending my church’s annual missions conference. This conference always rekindles a spark in my heart for what we do in prison. This year, more than others, it made me really, really miss a normal Saints season. Here are some of my major takeaways from our missions conference.

I Underappreciated Spending a Day in Prison

A visiting missionary to Bradley University had a term for time spent discipling college students – he called it Life-on-Life time. This involved his living room being filled with college students who piled their shoes up at his front door, ate all of the food in his kitchen, and learned the Bible together with him in his living room. As he showed the slides of them spending time ministering this way, my heart sank and missed spending a day in prison. I missed the games, but I really missed the conversations in the grass by the softball fields, sitting across from inmates during a prison meal, and praying with guys who may have heard the Gospel for the first time. Life-on-Life time as I know it!

God’s Word Changes Hearts

Another missionary was a young lady who is translating the Bible into the different Nigerian languages. She talked about what it meant for people to hear God’s Word in their own native language; how people’s eyes would light up or even fill with tears when they finally heard the Bible in their own language. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” I reflected on what a privilege it is to preach the Word to the inmates that we see. My teammates and I have also seen eyes light up and men start to cry when the Word pierces their heart and strikes at the core of who they are! There are several things I miss about our visits, but I really miss sharing the life changing news of the Gospel out on the prison yard.

Confessions of a Useless Missionary

One of the things that struck me the most was something that one of the missionaries said in passing. He talked about all of the mistakes that he had made over 20 years in ministry and jokingly said that he could write a book called, “Confessions of a Useless Missionary.” We discussed how God extends grace and works through us, despite our sin nature and imperfections. This hit home for me as I have made more mistakes as a missionary athlete and as a coach than I ever care to admit. I keep a small journal on my phone, with the title of one section being “Things I would tell myself if I could go back to 2011.” One of my entries is: “It takes 10 years to get 10 years of experience.” Since launching the IL team in 2011, I have spent a few Saturday evenings discouraged after a prison visit; about something I may have said incorrectly when sharing the Gospel, of not having the right answer for an inmate’s question at the correct moment, or with struggling over some aspect of trying to lead our team. This missionary’s conversation was an encouragement to me.

2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” If we didn’t make any mistakes or didn’t have any discouragement, we would be tempted to take all of the glory for ourselves and not give it to God. This missions conference showed me that God is still at work and that the Gospel is still going out. I have never had a better appreciation for missions and I can’t wait for our first Saturday visit, whenever that may be!

Inside the Mind of Gibby

Putting the Fun in Fundraising

by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

We did it! We made out of 2020! With the super weird year full of pandemics, politics, and church services over Zoom behind us, it is time to start looking forward to what is ahead in 2021.

Will we still remember how to play? Will we remember how to get to the prisons? Will we have to wear hazmat gear on the field? Who knows for sure, but in the meantime, we need to figure out how to pay for it all. As we look forward to a more normal prison ministry season, we will have to figure out some ways to do some fundraising so we can be ready to hit the road in 2021.

Late Night Infomercial: Did you ever stay up late watching your team play a game on the west coast but then you wake up and find yourself watching the commercial to buy the piece of workout equipment that can also be used as a steak knife and gets the hardest stains out of your shirts? Of course you have! Cue up that one Sarah McLachlan song they play for the animal adoption commercials, because we are going to have a spot that airs between 2:45 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Thursday mornings on the Weather Channel!

Softball Team Hit-a-Thon: Get your credit card ready, because there shouldn’t be anything more impressive than a bunch of middle aged guys who haven’t swung a bat in 18 months trying to hit. You can sponsor a missionary athlete as they see how many balls they can hit that day. You can donate $1 per hit…or miss depending on who your favorite MA is… But wait, there’s more! If you act now, we will include an autographed picture of Cliff Goller [OR UNSUSPECTING INFAMOUS MA] absolutely free!

Used Book Sale: Missionary Athletes, do you know of that one book that you got from that one men’s retreat that you just don’t have time to read? Or maybe the fitness book that is supposed to get you in shape for playing recreational sports? Or the one you got for Christmas from your aunt that is written by that one TV preacher who has all of that crummy theology? Maybe you really are going to get around to actually reading these or maybe they are propped under a table leg somewhere but here is your chance to get the most value out of it by selling it at our used book sale! Of course, part of the plan to success is having that person to also not read the book and donate it again next year!

50/50 Raffles: Whoa, whoa, whoa… I’m pretty sure that our Sunday school teachers call this gambling!

PBS Style Telethon: I’ve already made the calls and set it up with our local PBS station. We should be able to get someone like Tony Danza [OR FADING CELEBRITY WHO IS DESPARATE FOR A GIG] to host the event. The North Georgia team will perform a choreographed melody of Backstreet Boys songs to start the evening. They will be followed by [INSERT UNSUSPECTING MA HERE] who will be juggling softballs, bowling pins, and chainsaws… [MA NAME HERE] knows how to juggle, right? Later on in the evening, board president, Jeff Marthins will do a comedy bit on the life of prison ministry and being mistaken for Glen Beck. As of right now, I am doing a five hour drum solo between 1 a.m. – 6 a.m. as I haven’t found anyone else to take those spots…

Do we know what 2021 is going to be like? Absolutely not. But with a little help from some foolproof fundraising and Tony Danza, we should be ready for whatever happens!

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