This story is dedicated to all who have loved ones who have never accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. NEVER GIVE UP HOPE!
It was a cold raw early spring morning in Blacksburg, Virginia in 1980. As I arose from my bed and glanced out of the window I knew our baseball game against the Virginia Tech Hokies was in jeopardy A light but steady rain pounded its drumbeat against the ground, and the ominous cloud’s shadow invited another rainout. We were down to our final games in my senior season and each to me was precious. My professional aspirations which once burned bright now seemed to be a faint dream. But that didn’t matter. I was having the best season of my life! Every ball I hit seemed to be right on the button. I felt totally in control. Athletes call it “in the zone”, when the game seems to be played in slow motion and you are controlling the action. After three years of sitting on the bench, my time had arrived and I looked forward to sharing today’s game with my number one fan. They called him “Broadway John” for his flashy smile and lifestyle, but to me he was just Dad. I knew this dreary morning he was making a difficult nine hour drive just to get a final chance to see me play for the Bearcats of the University of Cincinnati. By the time he arrived on his journey from East Orange, New Jersey, the ballgame had called off and I saw the deep disappointment on his face. I spent time with Dad and his friend Larry who helped drive the long distance through the winding mountains to Blacksburg. As he left on his way home, I realized he would never again see me play the game he introduced to me as a young kid. He left without a complaint about the long drive back he now faced. It was then I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my father loved me. As I faced “the bottom of the ninth” of my baseball career, despite the obstacles, my father was there for me. He didn’t see my baseball career end, but the fact that he cared enough to be with me, carried me through my final games and last out.
The flight was unusually bumpy to Tampa this evening. The hastily prepared trip had taken me through a lengthy delay in Detroit on my journey. The flight seemed to take an eternity. When I arrived on the ground in Tampa, I quickly grabbed my bags and headed to catch the slow shuttle service to my parents home in Brandon, Florida. When I arrived, the home looked marvelous as always. New plush carpet greeted me and a beautiful glistening chandelier lit my path. Mom was so peaceful and sweeter than even she normally is. As we toured the home we laughed and smiled. Our conversation was so upbeat that we forgot the time was late. We needed to go to bed now that it was past midnight. Tomorrow was a big day. Tomorrow we would see Dad.
The Florida sunshine was particularly bright that morning as we drove to the VA Hospital where my father was a patient. The elevator seemed awfully slow as we got off on the fourth floor and headed for room 431. As I walked in, he was in the far bed behind the curtain. When I stepped past the curtain and glanced at the bed, a sweet, familiar voice and toothy smile greeted me with just the simple word “Darryl”. With all the strength I could summon from the Lord, I smiled back at a man I hardly recognized and simply responded “Dad”. Cancer had taken its toll on the outward appearance, but disease could not touch his heart and spirit. For the next five days I had the God given privilege of sharing life stories with my number one fan. I knew deep in my soul it was once again “the bottom of the ninth”, but this time, I was there for him.
The call that everyone dreads came at 4:30am, on April 22, 1999. That day will always be special because it was also my twins birthday. It’s a call that can only mean one thing, and it did. The tender voices of my sister and mother had let me know his journey had ended peacefully. The game was over for “Broadway John”.
But this game did not end with a rain-out. This is a game that ended with the Son-shining! Two months before he left us, what I thought was impossible, happened. After 43 years of faithfulness and selflessness from his wife. Through the desire of his children to see their father spend eternity with God. At the leading of his daughter, now focused on sharing the good news of the gospel, and by the amazing grace of God, in “the bottom of the ninth” inning of his life, John Harris invited Jesus Christ to be his Savior! Jesus Christ allowed my Dad to not only see a victory, but to be a victor!
He was there for me. I was there for him. Jesus is there for us. I thank the Lord for allowing “Broadway John” to finish the game with Him. Victory is so sweet, even if it comes in “the bottom of the ninth”!
Hallelujah I’m Free