“Congratulations, Marcus,” Mom said on the way to the car. “You pitched a great game!”
“Last April, when you pitched your first game,” Dad asked as we started home, “did you think you’d be pitching in the regional finals?”
“I guess I dreamed about it some,” I answered honestly, “but I really thought that Gary and the Pirates would end up going again.”
Dad, Mom, and I relived the game, especially that last inning with a guy on third, one on first, and Gary up to bat. The Pirates were down by two runs, but Gary had already hit one homer that day, and everybody on the Pirate bench was counting on him to hit a second one. That would have put them up by one and sent them to the regional games. But Gary struck out. Then Willie popped up, and I snagged the ball to end the game.
“Oh, before I forget, Marcus,” Mom told me, “Sister Anderson called this afternoon and wants you to give a talk in Primary a week from Sunday.”
Talking in Primary wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but this time I knew immediately what to talk about. “I think I’ll talk about Little League.”
Mom turned around to look at me, and Dad glanced at me in the rearview mirror. “This is Primary, you know,” Mom pointed out, “not another baseball game.”
I grinned. “I know, Mom. I’m not going to talk about the game of baseball.” I explained, “You see, Heavenly Father has really helped me this season. Even though I’m the only Church member on the team and it hasn’t been easy, I’ve tried hard to do what’s right, and He’s helped me.” I went on quietly, “I could feel Him helping me out there this afternoon. I wasn’t nervous, even when Gary came to the plate. I said a little prayer, asking the Lord to help me do my best. Even before I threw that first pitch, I knew everything was going to be all right. That’s what I want to talk about in Primary—how the Lord can bless us when we work hard and choose the right.”
During the next week and a half, our team worked hard to get ready for the regional games. If we won all our games there, we’d be playing three games Friday and two Saturday.
Friday I woke up to a gray, overcast sky. “You don’t think it will rain, do you?” I asked Dad as we drove the hour and a half to Bakersville, where the games were to be played.
“The clouds will just make it nice and cool,” Dad said optimistically.
But Dad was wrong. It rained off and on all Friday and Saturday. Games were delayed and schedules were changed. By late Saturday evening, we were just finishing the semifinal game. At the end of regulation time, our team was tied with the Tunis Tigers. We didn’t give up, though. We hung in there two more innings, neither team able to get the advantage over the other one. Then, with two outs and Bobby Simms on second, I hit a single to right field. The right fielder overthrew the third baseman, and Bobby raced into home to score.
After all the celebrating, the coach gathered us around him. “Well, guys, one more game and we’re regional champs!”
“When do we play?” Chad asked.
“Tomorrow afternoon. The weather’s supposed to be good all day.”
“Tomorrow?” I asked. “Tomorrow’s Sunday.”
Coach Decker shrugged. “It’s too late to play tonight, so it was decided to play Sunday afternoon.”
I felt sick. Nobody else seemed to care that we were going to be playing on Sunday.
“The game starts at 2:00 P.M.” Coach said. “I’d like you here no later than noon. That will give us some time to warm up and get ready for the game. Any questions?” He looked around. I just stood there, feeling sick inside.
As the group broke up, Coach Decker slapped me on the back. “Don’t look so glum, Marcus. We’re one game from the championship! You’re not nervous, are you? You’re going to pitch us to the championship.”
“Do we have to play on a Sunday?”
Coach Decker laughed. “No, Marcus, we get to play on Sunday.”
“I have church tomorrow,” I said quietly.
“Church?” Coach’s smile began to fade. “Marcus, this is the championship. You can go to church any Sunday. But this is the only time you’re ever going to play this game. Now you head home and get a good night’s sleep.”
Slowly I turned and headed to where Mom and Dad were waiting for me on the bleachers. Looking at their faces, I knew that they had heard about the Sunday game. They waited for me to speak. I was quiet until we got to the car.
“Church starts at 8:30,” I remarked. “It’ll be over at 11:30.” I wet my lips. “I’d be a little late getting here for the warm-ups and all, but we could still go to church. I’d be able to give my talk in Primary.”
Mom and Dad were quiet for a moment. Then Dad said, “Do you feel good about that?”
“Dad, I didn’t plan for this game to be on Sunday. That’s just the way things turned out. If it only hadn’t rained these last two days, we’d have played the championship game tonight. I have to pitch in that game. The team’s depending on me. We’ll lose if I don’t. Tony’s the backup pitcher, and he just can’t do the job. I just have to play.”
“It’s a tough decision,” Mom commented, looking out the car window as we headed for home. “You have to make sure you do the right thing.”
“I’ll be going to church,” I argued. “Isn’t that what Sundays are for?”
“Is that the only thing Sundays are for?” Dad questioned gently.
“That’s the main thing.”
Dad took a deep breath. “The Lord has asked us to keep His day holy. We’re to worship Him. Not just when we’re at church, but all day. It’s a day of rest from our labors.”
“Playing this game isn’t work. It’s play.”
“Marcus, as a family we’ve always been careful about what we do on the Sabbath, haven’t we?”
I nodded slowly.
“Sunday has always been a special day for us. That’s the way the Lord intended it to be. That’s why we don’t go to movies or shop on Sundays. We’re careful to not do some of the things that we do on other days of the week.”
“But I can’t play this game any other day of the week. I would if I could, but I can’t. Do you think it’s fair that I let Coach Decker and the other guys on the team down? I owe them something.”
“Do you owe the Lord anything? You made a commitment when you were baptized to obey His commandments. That was long before you ever agreed to pitch for the Chiefs.”
“Marcus,” Dad cut me off, holding up his hand. “I’m not going to tell you that you can’t play tomorrow. This will be a decision that you make. But you need to think about what you’re doing.”
“It’s just going to be one time, Dad. One time can’t hurt. Besides, the Lord has helped me get as far as I have this season. That’s what I was going to say in my Primary talk. Did He help me all this time just so I could sit home and not play in the biggest game of the season?”
“Marcus,” Dad spoke again, “do you know what a covenant is?”
“Isn’t it like a promise?”
“That’s right. But it’s a special promise between you and the Lord. Did you know that keeping the Sabbath holy is part of the covenant you made at baptism? The Lord has asked us to keep the Sabbath holy. How well we do it shows how faithful we are at keeping His commandments. And He has covenanted that He will bless us if we keep His Sabbath holy.”
“But I’ve kept the Sabbath holy,” I argued again. “This is just one time.”
“Maybe this is the time the Lord is testing you to see how faithful you will be. Was it easy to keep the Sabbath holy last week?”
“Yes. It was just like any other Sunday.”
“So if the Lord really wanted to know how obedient you are, which Sunday would show Him that, last week or tomorrow?”
We didn’t say anything the rest of the way home. I did a lot of thinking, though. I thought about the other guys. I thought about Coach. I thought about the championship trophy.
Then I started thinking about the Lord, my family, Bishop Peterson, and everyone else who was depending on me to make the right decision. I thought of the things the Lord had given me. He hadn’t ever asked for much in return. Now it was my turn to give something back. I thought of what I could offer Him. Deep inside I knew He wouldn’t care much about my giving Him a championship trophy. The only thing I could really give the Lord was the way I lived my life—show Him that He could count on me, no matter what.
I offered a silent prayer, asking the Lord to help me know what to do and to have the courage to do it. It was funny, but after that prayer, there was no question in my mind.
“I’ll need to call Coach Decker,” I said quietly as we pulled into the driveway at home.
“Do you want me to talk to him?” Dad asked.
In a way I did, yet I knew that that wouldn’t be right. “No,” I answered softly, “I want him to know that this is my decision.” Looking at Mom, I added, “And I think I’m going to change my talk for Primary tomorrow. I think I’d like to talk about keeping the Sabbath holy.”