Tag Archives: Inside the Mind of Gibby

I Guess it’s not all Bad…

by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

Let’s face it, producing an article that pokes fun at prison ministry while trying to live through the Medieval Plague of 2020 is a really tough task. I mean, do I write another passive aggressive article about how the Northeastern guys drive, or yet another article about our bus with yet another secretly-coded message desperately pleading for anyone to come rescue me with their fleet of new reliable buses?

This year has been tough as our season was postponed, postponed again, postponed some more, and then eventually cancelled. We all miss sharing the Gospel in prison. We all miss the games and the competitive fellowship and comradery that we have among our teammates and the inmates. We miss talking about the stories that we hear from the men that we see and how some of them chose Jesus in their darkest hour. We miss the long bus rides and meals after the games. But here are some of the things that I haven’t missed in the slightest!

I HAVE NOT MISSED, Waking Up at 2:40 am

It is physically impossible to be in bed before 11 p.m. the night before a Saints prison visit. There is always a kid’s activity on a Friday night that will run late. There is always one part of your uniform that didn’t make it into the washing machine yet. The printer will run out of ink as you are printing your Gospel message the next day, resulting in a trip to Walmart. And, of course, there is always that elusive right-handed batting glove that is somewhere between your garage and diamond #2 at the local park. Of course, you are playing at Mayberry State Prison which is on the other side of the state and 4 hours off of the highway. Of course, they have requested that you arrive at 7 am. This will require meeting in the middle of the night with several other zombies who also left a batting glove at diamond #2 earlier in the week!

I HAVE NOT MISSED, Gas Station Food

Naturally, there isn’t a restaurant nearby Smallville State Prison so, of course, we will dine at the local Shell Gas Station. No, it’s not the nice one near the interstate with the Subway or Arby’s attached. It is the one in Middle-of-Nowhere, IL that has the four rolling hot dogs and the out of order fountain soda machine. There is always the gas station pizza option… but everyone is afraid to try that. There may be some local stuff like Farmer Jenkins’ Beef Jerky, or Junior’s Boiled Peanuts but this meal will most likely consist of Jack Links and a bag of Hostess frosted donuts.

I HAVE NOT MISSED, Prison Food

I take back all of the bad stuff I said about the gas station pizza…

I HAVE NOT MISSED, Getting Blown Out by a Prison All-Star Team

We have a pretty good record overall when we play against the inmate teams but sometimes you play a team of destiny. They got the notice about your August visit back in February and they have been doing a Rocky IV training montage-type practice every day since that Saints poster went up in the prison gym. They will recruit the guy who played AAA baseball and some guys who played in the NCAA tournament a while back as soon as they hear about this prison visit. This game is usually ugly. Your outfielders will either quit on the spot or go hide in the crowd. Your team will either leave the field humbled or ready to retire and join a basket weaving ministry.

Don’t get me wrong, I would be more than happy to get up early and eat some bad gas station food before playing against the prison all-stars tomorrow if asked – but those aren’t at the top of my list of things I missed the most about not going to prison in 2020!

Inside the Mind of Gibby – I Declare a Do-Over

by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

As of this writing I am social distancing in the basement of the Mind of Gibby headquarters. I am hunkered down with quarantine survival supplies, which amounts to delivery pizza and the 2016 Chicago Cubs World Series DVD.

Yes, 2020 is off to a flying halt thanks to the COVID-19 that took America by storm the first half of the year. Doing home projects and playing video games replaced the grind of getting up early and traveling to prisons on Saturdays. 2020 could use a lot more hand sanitizer and a lot less Facebook; but the one thing that 2020 needs most is a do-over!

I repeatedly wished I had a do-over after a crummy math test or a bad at-bat in little league. After 33 years, The Saints Prison Ministry would like to have a do-over or two. There have been countless transportation gaffes and several prison softball/basketball/volleyball games gone awry, so there are plenty of missteps that we wish we could have back.

Do-over #1 – Man vs Food

Playing sports in prison works up an appetite. We often will get a quick meal in between yard times before returning to play more games. Occasionally, that food can be a Mexican, Italian, or breakfast food buffet in between games…on a 95-degree day…against the Kentucky State Reformatory all-stars. Was it nice to have an authentic Mexican meal with some pals? Absolutely! Can you be a competitive sports ministry team when half of your outfield cannot – or should not – move? Absolutely not!

Do-over #2 – The Illinois Bus

There is also that one time we bought a bus for the IL team…Ok, Ok, I know telling this story again is like beating a dead horse. Of course, buying a dead horse would have been a better deal than that bus! If we had a time machine and had the ability to go back to that fateful day, we would have tackled our lead negotiator Kurt Hand before he shook hands on that deal.

Do-over #3 – Uniforms

Picking out uniforms is fun! Picking uniform colors that don’t mix well with dirt and sweat stains is the pits! To my knowledge there have only been two teams guilty of this offense: The IL team (white pants with blue pinstripes) and the GA team (white jerseys). We always looked

good on Opening Day, but both teams looked like they had been changing oil with their Saints uniforms on by the end of the year. All the Illinois and Georgia wives would like this do-over…

Do-over #4 – That Time we Visited that One Prison

We have a good team of professional staff that makes arrangements for our prison visits and there are professional staff across the country that invite our sports teams in to play and share the Gospel. Sometimes miscommunications happen and things go haywire. Did we book a softball visit to a prison that did not have a softball field? Yes. We. Did. How about the day a chaplain told us that we would see only 30 guys, but it turned out there were 300 guys in the yard? You should have seen the look on the guy’s face who packed our literature that day! Ha! You should have seen the look on the guy’s face who had to walk back to the bus to get more literature.

With the COVID-19 messing up 2020 plans for everyone, it reminds us that we need to be flexible when doing prison ministry…or we could just start declaring do-overs!

 

Inside the Mind of Gibby – When you Wish upon a Star

by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

I have no doubt the day is coming. No doubt whatsoever. Any day now it is going to happen; we will be purchased by the Walt Disney Company just like the Avengers, The Muppets, and Star Wars. With the impending offer coming any day, we should be considering what we have to offer to best impress the Disney Board of Directors with what we have to offer.

Illinois Bus…The Ride – Families will book their Walt Disney World fast passes months in advance to ride the legendary bus! Does the animatronic bus ride break down on the Dan Ryan in Chicago while trying to merge onto I-55 or does it break down in a busy left turn lane in East St. Louis? Thrill ride seekers can sit in the back near the exploding floorboards, while those looking for a flume-ride splash experience can sit in the front where the windshield leaks during a thunderstorm!

Star Wars Mandalorian Season 2 featuring Saints Crusade to Tatooine – While we are playing indoor soccer at the local intergalactic detention center, there is unrest when Mandalorian bounty hunters confuse Jonathan Lambert with Obi Wan Kenobi. Production is slowed down a little as the iconic Mandalorian helmet “somehow” ends up at a prison ministry charity auction. Millions of Disney Plus subscribers will be torn between what is more adorable: Baby Yoda or Rodney Stewart’s North Carolina accent!

Regular Programming on ESPN – Disney owns a controlling stake in ESPN so, with our world-class sports ministry, this is a perfect match! We could do regular segments on SportsCenter or a weekly panel discussion show. This is a great idea, and I know of a few guys with conflicting sports opinions who would wreak havoc on the sports talk shows. Is Joe Girardi the right manager for the Phillies? Is Carson Wentz foolhardy or just brittle? Does Ben Simmons really have to be able to shoot? On second thought, maybe it would be best not to include the Philly sports fans in this part of the business…

Toy Story 5 featuring Andy Solomon – It turns out that Andy Solomon is the same Andy from the original movies! He left them to join the Saints once Disney bought Pixar and now Disney has him back. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen return for another guaranteed blockbuster sequel, and the hijinks ensue when

Buzz Lightyear and Woody stow away inside the literature bag during a Middle Georgia prison visit. This is a heartwarming story where Buzz and Woody learn the joys of friendship and perseverance. Andy learns the heartburn-inducing lesson of double-checking the literature bag for contraband…

Live Action Goofy Cartoon – In the true Disney fashion of taking our beloved animated classics and turning them into live-action film, Disney will remake the Sports Goofy Cartoons using our missionary athletes. As he is the only MA to play a game in every sport, Butch Smith will land the starring role of Goofy.

From the parks to the silver screen to on-demand streaming, this will be without a doubt the most profitable Disney merger to date! We have so many personalities represented on our teams across the country. How can this not be the greatest thing to happen to the entertainment industry?

 

When the Trip Gets Boring…

by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach

This is one of the most exciting ministries on the planet! Taking the Great Commission to prisons across the country is exciting, challenging, and fulfilling. But let me just level with you; sometimes the trip to exciting and fulfilling is a lot of “meh,” with the occasional “ugh” mixed in for good measure. Maybe Ed Mosely, Chris Copeland, or Vinny Maggio didn’t show up to keep everyone on their toes. Perhaps the NJ Gamemeister (Hugh Dwyer to the rest of us) chose open heart surgery that week, leaving the back of the bus to discuss boring things like the weather, the stock market, or the NHL. Perhaps the drive is the same corn field for miles and miles and miles… it can happen on any Saturday, but on a crusade this becomes magnified because tomorrow might not be any better! If at some point you find yourself in this situation, here are four ways of turning a “Humdrum Crusade” into an “Epic Crusade!”

Let anyone from the NE Region – past or present – drive the bus

After four games in a prison, your expectations are to sit in your seat and drift off to sleep as you pass by corn fields and herds of cattle. This is usually what happens… unless you are riding in a vehicle with someone who is from north of Virginia and east of Ohio! For some unknown reason, they will mistake rural Indiana for the New Jersey Turnpike! You will want to make sure that your seat belts are fastened with your seat backs and tray tables in the upright and locked position as you make your way home!

Sit in and play drums with a local band in the middle of Nowhere, AL

Sometimes you are enjoying a nice meal with teammates when suddenly you are drug on stage and asked to sit in with a local band. This is rare and requires a few years of drum lessons, and a year or two in your local high school marching band, but nothing breaks up the monotony of a long drive back to the hotel like a prison minister…dressed in full softball uniform…playing a Brooks and Dunn song during dinner!

Create your own transportation crisis

Break up the monotony of the interstate by turning and asking for directions. Joe Technology – insisting his smartphone app is the only right way to go – will have you driving across a cow pasture to get back to the state road; while Captain Knowitall – absolutely sure he’s “been here before” – will have you visiting all five boroughs of NY before arriving in NJ!

Go to church with Alice Cooper

A few years ago, on the last day of an Arizona trip, most of the team flew home while the IL guys stayed behind an extra day. Flights to Peoria were “better” the next day, but really someone (we’ll just call him Zrank Feidler to protect his identity!) was just too cheap to send us home on time… but I digress. Since we had the extra day, and we now controlled where the van went, the IL guys searched for a local church. My pastor recommended a church with solid expository preaching and oh by the way, Alice Cooper goes to church there too! Of course, being the nice guy I am, I was happy to let him get his picture taken with a pseudo-famous newsletter author.

2020 will no doubt be great but will also have its moments where it is less than exciting. So, if any missionary-athlete reading this find yourself bored outside the prison walls this upcoming season, remember, these are four surefire ways to liven up any Saints trip!

A Wife’s Thoughts

by Tom Gibson, IL Saints Softball Coach and his wife, Kelly

Here at “Inside the Mind of Gibby,” we enjoy opening fan mail. There are often some nice notes encouraging us to keep telling the stories of sharing the Gospel in prison, as well as some less than nice notes from prison food service workers letting me know that they do not appreciate my criticism of prison food. But, one of the biggest requests we get, is to introduce my wife Kelly and hear her thoughts on the ministry.

Hello, Saints friends! I’m Kelly, chief editor and comedy guinea pig for “Inside the Mind of Gibby.” Even though I miss commas and can’t always tame the run-on sentences in his articles, Tom has asked me to contribute my thoughts on being the spouse of a Saints missionary athlete. While I’ve certainly not been a part of The Saints ministry as long as other spouses have, I would like to share some things that I’ve learned, things that have surprised me, and things that I would be ok NOT knowing about being married to a Saint…maybe.

While I’m not the one who is sharing the Good News in the yard, stretching a single into a double, or trusting my life to a questionable source of transportation, I have acquired some unique skills on The Saints home front. Does this stack of Spanish Gospels of John have 20 or only 19? I can tell by looking from across the room. Are the holes in the knees of Tom’s baseball pants fixable? Don’t look closely at my stitching, but you bet they are! Where are the batting gloves located at the local sporting goods store? I can even find them in Hawaii during football season.

In addition to skills, Saints spouses are almost guaranteed weekly and sometimes daily surprises. If you’re one who enjoys online shopping and who glows with the sight of packages delivered to your door, you will love being the spouse of a coach! Don’t be discouraged if the large UPS and FedEx boxes on your doorstep are filled with support envelopes and baseball pants, though. You may also be surprised to learn (from a husband who slides a lot) that you have all the tools to be a pedologist. My laundry room has soil samples from Georgia clay to Indiana topsoil. If you would like tips on removing said Georgia clay from light-colored baseball pants, contact Susan Zeidler for her secret weapon!

  • If it seems I’m making being a Saint spouse too good to be true, I’ll include some insider information to balance my thoughts:
  • If you have a husband who is happy to eat anything you cook, encourage him to not attend a crusade with Hugh Dwyer. Nothing you make will ever compare to the “fantastic eats” Hugh will find for the crusade teams.
  • I’m pretty sure overnight hotel stays on Saints crusades are pretty much the equivalent to a bunch of 5th graders having a sleepover.
  • If your spouse is a Saints coach, just resign yourself to the reality that you won’t have a meaningful conversation the day before a visit as his or her phone will be blowing up with texts and emails.

Washing baseball uniforms is a pain (whoever is talking Tom into sliding so much needs to knock it off!) The bus is frightening. The stories are entertaining. There is nothing quite as fun, however, as saying “My husband is going to prison this weekend!”

Inside the Mind of Gibby: The New Mexico Crusade That Never Was

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!

 

 

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We must regretfully announce that the SPM softball season 2020 is officially cancelled. After previously announcing the cancellation of many crusades - and the softball seasons for IL, NJ, and PA – this message serves to inform everyone that all softball events still pending are now also cancelled.

We have been in touch with the DOC Volunteer Coordinators on a weekly basis since early July, and more recently have received counsel from a high-ranking DOC official that nothing is likely to change until at least October, leading us to this painful decision.

Thank you all for your patience, as well as your passion. We do not know what the future holds, except to say that we anticipate being “back in business” in 2021 and every prison we talked to is anxiously awaiting the day we can return. There may be new protocols in place by then, but there is no virus strong enough to stop the Gospel message from reaching those who need to hear it!