Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, as a coach, I competed against Vanderbilt head baseball coach Roy Mewbourne. He was a fierce competitor, but during that era Vandy didn’t have the beautiful facilities that they now have. Coach Mewbourne had some good teams and several outstanding players. Most of our games with them were very competitive. To set the stage for this story, you would have to know something about Vandy’s baseball facility at that time. It is nestled extremely close to the Commodore football stadium. As a matter of fact, you could spit from the top of the football stadium and it would land on the top of the third base dugout. In the new facility, the architects did a phenomenal job of using the same space but slightly rearranging the field so that it would have more room between the third base dugout and the baseline. At the old stadium, I could practically reach from the end of the dugout and shake hands with Coach Mewbourne as he coached third base.
Roy had a tremendous voice for a coach. When he would encourage his team from the coach’s box, his baritone voice would echo off the football stadium. It felt like he was in our dugout! Whenever we would get a substantial lead on the Commodores, Roy would pump up his team with his booming voice by saying, “Let’s go, ya never know!” When I think of Roy, I think about a competitor, a friend and a never-give-up attitude, and his big voice saying, “Ya never know!”
During the mid-80s, I was asked by legendary Omaha high school baseball coach, Bill Olson, to speak at a baseball clinic in Omaha. I told him that I would do it if he and his son, Gregg, would invite me for a home visit. I desperately wanted an “in” while recruiting Gregg. (Unfortunately, my strategy didn’t work. Gregg became an All-American and first round pick from Auburn University. So, not only did we lose him, we had to face him every year! His velocity was outstanding, but his curve is legendary.)
Getting a home-visit with Gregg was not the best thing that happened on the trip. On the flight to Omaha, I sat next to a very congenial Omaha businessman, Bill Pierson. During our conversation he invited me to play racquetball with him and his pastor, Calvin Miller. I couldn’t play racquetball with them because of the speaking engagement at the clinic.
The following week, I received a book from Bill Pierson written by Miller. The name of the book was The Table of Inwardness. To say that the book had an impact on me would be an understatement. I read the book and was intrigued with Miller’s gift of writing and the way he shared his faith in Christ very creatively and inspirationally. The following week I read the book again and highlighted the lines that were especially meaningful to me. The third time I read the book (yes, I read it three times) I highlighted it once again. The book is filled with personal notes and yellow highlighter. I didn’t sign Gregg Olson following my trip to Omaha, but I read a book that helped change my life. Charles Stanley once said, “The circumstances and events that we see as setbacks are often times the very things that launch us into periods of intense spiritual growth.”
So, when someone wants to chat on the plane, get to know him or her. Bill and Calvin became very good friends. Knowing them has encouraged me tremendously in my faith journey. All of this reminds me of Roy Mewbourne’s favorite comment when we need a rally during a game or in life, “Ya never know.”
God can use conversations on a plane or in a book to help change your life for the better. We all have room to grow if our hearts are open to the opportunities God provides.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. —Colossians 4:5