By Brian Morrison, coach of the WV Saints softball team
*Editor’s Note – the West Virginia softball team is our newest team, playing their inaugural season this summer. On June 18th, they visited Noble Correctional Institution in Caldwell, Ohio. This is one story from that visit, a day when 34 men made the decision to follow Christ!
There was one man who stood out during our visit in June, for several reasons. Eric is a large man; maybe only 6’1” or so, but wide shoulders and a very muscular build. He was one of the prison team captains, and certainly seemed to hold his team’s attention and respect. Always a smile on his face, he played first base and when a Saint reached base, Eric would congratulate the hit, even add a little bit of small talk between batters.
After the first game, I handed out Gospels to the opposing team by their dugout. Eric filled out a response card indicating he wasn’t ready yet to accept Christ, and he listed no prayer request. In the second game, he was an extra hitter, allowing another man to play first. I played catcher the last half of the second game, so I was able to continue to talk to him and the other inmates as they stepped up to the plate.
After our second game the teams gathered in the center of the field, as we always do. We presented the MVPs with the FCA New Testament and additional award books to the umpires and scorekeepers. I had the blessing of sharing a closing remark to end our day. I asked the inmates, “if the State allowed me to take their place, would they want that?” While only one man raised his hand, I “guessed” there were several who would. I shared a thought from the thief on the cross in Luke 23; how Jesus promised eternal life in Heaven to that one who acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God. This criminal – a man within hours of his death for his crimes – was still saved by Jesus. I then explained that, while you are never too old to accept Jesus as your Savior, it can be too late, for once you take that last breath, your chance for salvation is over.
I then offered one last opportunity for anyone who hadn’t filled out a response card – or who had filled one out and wanted a “do over” – to do so before we left. We had two men accept the offer; the first had not filled out a card at all and now he wanted more information. The other was Eric, who followed one of the Saints to our bench, where we retrieved a new Response Card for him, and he filled it out.
As Eric walked away, Chris Atkins, one of my teammates, took the card from Eric, looked at it, and looked at me… “Eric just accepted Christ!” As the inmates were heading back to their dorms for head count, I caught up to Eric and walked with him for a few feet. I urged him to read the Gospel of John several times, and understand that Jesus died for Him, just as He did for me. Although Eric was the last man in the yard, he still had to make his way back to the dorms, so I wasn’t able to spend time with him in prayer. I parted by telling him we will pray for him. We did – I hope you will too!