“He was going to be a major leaguer, absolutely”

The writing is a bit scrambled, but have a look at this story of a fellow who gave up a promising career in baseball (the sport God loves best) for a vocation with the Norbertines in Orange, California:

SILVERADO, Calif. – On the morning Grant Desme ceased to exist, he was at peace. He spent years searching for serenity, convinced it was coming soon, next, now. It never did. Life was a blaring stereo, and he had become numb to its noise. The sound finally abated when he arrived here. He believed God muted it.

So on Christmas Eve two years ago he and seven other men marched into the church at St. Michael’s Abbey and readied for a transition the church considered spiritual death. Grant Desme would go by another name. His plainclothes would become a head-to-toe white habit. For the next two years, he would commit to the dual life of a priest-in-training and a monk in the Norbertine Order. The naming ceremony bound him to the virtues of chastity, poverty and obedience.

[...]

On the afternoon Grant Desme retired from baseball, he was at peace. The world in which he had immersed himself was shocked and dumbfounded, of course, that a strapping 23-year-old center fielder with power, speed, smarts and just about everything baseball teams want in a player would quit. Sports is a place of great myopia, insular thinking and exaggerated accomplishment that conflates excellence and holiness. In baseball, God is the home run. And Desme knew that God well.

He hit 31 of them during the minor league season and another 11 in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League, where he won the Most Valuable Player award in November 2009. He emerged as the talk of the league, and the team that drafted him in the second round and signed him for $430,000, the Oakland Athletics, started dreaming on Desme’s future.

“He was going to be a major leaguer, absolutely,” A’s general manager Billy Beane says. [BTW... I have found the movie Moneyball (the Billy Beane connection) to be an interesting source of reflection on, mutatis mutandis, how we might try to get some spheres of the Church functioning again.] “He looked like he’d gotten over that hump. And he could’ve been a lot more. A great talent.”

People in the game scrambled to understand why Desme would give up the riches and the platform baseball affords to spread the word of God. The decision wasn’t met with derision as much as wonderment. Athletes leave when their talents or bodies or something tangible betrays them. Desme left ascendant.
“I had everything I wanted,” he says, “and it wasn’t enough.”

[...]

Read the rest there.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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10 Responses to “He was going to be a major leaguer, absolutely”

  1. kat says:

    Thanks for this, Father. I woke up way too early today, and spent my time reading the whole article. I plan to share it with friends and priests, and hope they pass it along to youths who have to choose their vocation. What a great story!

  2. mike cliffson says:

    Inspiring!

  3. JonPatrick says:

    There is also a fairly well written article on him in the LA Times by Steve Lowery. I found it by Googling “Grant Desme”. He draws an interesting parallel between the original St. Norbert who was injured falling from his horse and then had time while recovering to reflect on his life, and an incident where Desme was sidelined by a wrist injury, thus causing him to do some soul searching.

  4. jflare says:

    “Sports is a place of great myopia, insular thinking and exaggerated accomplishment that conflates excellence and holiness.”

    Seems to me this single statement provides an outstanding commentary on life.

    I couldn’t compete in soccer or volleyball through high school or college, mostly because these sports either weren’t available for young men or else I had other, higher priorities.
    Even so, I distinctly recall having become somewhat depressed by the notion of sports OR youth activities in general during my early 20′s. I’d heard SO MUCH about the glories of winning State championships, National championships, or the valor of participating in this or that extra-curricular activity. I recall having placed a great deal of effort into achieving Eagle Rank before my senior year of high school. As I proceeded through college though, I began to question whether ANY of those efforts had any merit at all. It wasn’t so much that I thought them a waste of time or energy, exactly, so much as I wondered..if any of these efforts..MEANT anything.

    In particular, whatever anyone might say about winning this or that sporting tournament, I found it rather disturbing to see that..nobody TRUTHFULLY seemed to know or care about my high school’s having won a State volleyball tournament five years before. Or our boys’ basketball team having FINALLY made it to the State basketball tournament for the first time in..a very long time. Even if they did lose in the first round.
    None of these really seemed to matter to anyone.

    Sports at large seemed to be downright HOLLOW.

    It appears that I’m not the only one who might’ve had..second thoughts.

    God bless him.

  5. AnAmericanMother says:

    Linky: From prospect to priest

    Don’t know why sportswriters are the new Riders of the Purple Prose. Seems to be a bad habit in that segment of the media. Good story if you can get through the overwriting though.

  6. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    It’s an inspiring story, and since I have a house full of baseball enthusiasts, one with a happy ending. “Not so much derision as wonderment”. What a fortuitous turn of phrase. What other reaction should we have when someone gives up “his” life to follow the Lord of Life?

    On the other matter, of course, Father Zuhlsdorf is utterly wrong. Baseball isn’t the sport God loves best. Rugby is: men give blood for a cause greater than themselves.

  7. Legisperitus says:

    Chris Garton-Zavesky: It’s God’s favorite because a baseball game seems most like eternity.

  8. ndmom says:

    This story reminded me of Shelley Pennefather, a Villanova basketball star who still holds several school records, who left a lucrative pro basketball career in Japan to join the Poor Clares some twenty years ago.

    http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/catholic_stories/cs0038.html

  9. AnnAsher says:

    I agree with you on pulling up some lesser known faithful holy clergy currently in the minors to the ecclesiastical team of the Big League’s.

  10. JackG says:

    Hmmm . . . he left the A’s to become a Padre. Good move!