On Sunday, June 13, 2004, Matt Starr was at Ameriquest Field in Arlington, Texas, watching the home team, the Rangers, take on the St. Louis Cardinals. When a foul ball was hit toward where he was sitting, the 28-year-old landscaper leapt over the seat in front of him. Even though the ball had landed at the feet of 4-year-old Nicholas O’Brien, Starr knocked the boy against the seats and pounced on the ball. The boy’s mother, insulted by the aggressive behavior, swatted him with her program, while fans chanted, “Give the boy the ball.” But, clutching the ball to himself, Starr returned to his seat unwilling to part with his new souvenir.
Even the ballplayers witnessed Starr’s actions. Between innings, Cardinals’ outfielder Reggie Sanders went into the stands to give the boy a bat. Nicholas also received souvenirs from the Texas Rangers, including one signed by Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan. Video of Starr’s self-serving behavior was shown on television stations across the country. When interviewed on “Good Morning America,” Edie O’Brien, Nicholas’ mother, admitted calling Starr a jerk, among other names. “I said, ’You trampled a 4-year-old boy to get this ball,’ and he said, ’Oh, well.’”
Four days later, Starr, a former youth minister at a nearby church, expressed sorrow for his behavior. He agreed to send a letter of apology to the O’Brien family. Starr also indicated he would give the boy the ball. In addition, he would buy tickets for the entire family to a future Rangers’ game.
How often do we think a small thing such as this will be something that would go unnoticed and life would go on as normal. Little did Starr know that a camera would catch the entire scene and it would be on the national news as well as everyone in the ballpark witnessing the event. It only takes a brief moment to ruin a lifetime of good, through one selfish and thoughtless incident. What a reminder that someone is always watching our lives and the more we are involved in Christian ministry the higher profile we become. Someone once said, “When you stand up, you stand out, and when you stand out, you will get shot at.”
As we assume responsibility in the church by participating or leading in a ministry, the devil places a bull’s-eye on our back and we become the target of his malicious ways. Yes, he would like to destroy our reputation in front of as many people as he possibly could, but if a small child looses confidence in us, it has the potential to have an effect on that child for a lifetime and indirectly affect all the lives of those the child would come in contact with. The message is simple and swift but powerful, “walk circumspectly” and realize that the camera is always on you. What if every event of your life was recorded and made available to everyone? That would be potentially embarrassing, but don’t forget God sees all, and I’m sure you will agree with me that grieving him would be the greatest embarrassment of all.
If you could ask Starr was all of this worth a $5 baseball, what do you think his answer would be?
The writer is the pastor of Northtowne Church of God in Sidney.