When I was a kid, Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs was my favorite player. He came to speak at our Little League banquet. All my friends knew my dream was to be a baseball player like Ernie, so they sent me up to the podium to talk to him. I got his autograph. He signed it this way To Darrel Chaney: Ill see you in the big leagues.
Thats exactly what happened.
In 1969, playing with the Cincinnati Reds against the Chicago Cubs, I drew a walk. Ernie was playing first. When I arrived at the bag, he put his arms around me and said, Its a long way from that banquet hall in Hammond, Indiana.
It was but not as long a journey as I would later take.
Although I was an All-American football player in high school, I signed with the Reds because they made me their second choice. I spent a year in the army, and year and a half in the minors, and made the big leagues in 1969, at the age of 21. I was part of the Big Red Machine until 1975 when I was traded to Atlanta and played with the Braves for four years.
One of my greatest thrills was seeing my Mom and Dad, sitting behind the dugout in Chicago when I first came up the Big Leagues, knowing how much it meant to them, especially my Dad, who had been my coach.
Of course another thrill was being part of a World Championship team. I considered myself the 25th best player on a 25 man team, but being able to wear a World Championship ring us unbelievable.
My real journey came in terms of my faith.
I thought I was a man of God. I believe in God. But I still thought everything was somehow dependent upon me that I needed to be able to fix everything in my life.
One day, in 1972, when the Reds were playing in St. Louis, I got a call from my brother, telling me our mother had cancer. I suddenly realized there are so many things over which I have no control, and which I cant fix. That very night, I went back to my hotel room, got down on my knees, and asked Jesus into my life.
Since that night, I still struggle on occasion. My life is not perfect. But I have learned to trust in God who has a perfect plan for my life. My favorite Bible passage is Jeremiah 29, verses 11 and 12. I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. And when you pray to Me, I will hear you.
His journey was even longer than mine, or yours. He left heaven and came to earth, to climb a cross and die and rise again, that we might have a future, and hope.
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