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           Image               As I sat down to write my blog this week I felt the Holy Spirit urge me into talking about sacrifice and what it truly means.  Of course we all know of the greatest sacrifice…that of Jesus Christ dying for our sins, which gives us the chance at heavenly peace.  As I reflected on the sad passing of someone dear to me this week, another great example came to mind…Coach Brad Barbour.  Bear with me as I share a little…not only about sacrifice but about a loss that is weighing on my heart.  Coach Brad Barbour passed away this past week after a long illness and, to say the least, the news hit me pretty hard.  There are just some people you can’t imagine the world going on without.  For this post, I would like to do my best to remember him the best way I know how and that’s by sharing with you exactly what kind of man and coach he was and how he sacrificed for others just as Christ did for us.

            Coach Barbour was a man of integrity to say the least.  He coached recreation leagues, high school baseball, and American Legion baseball.  I can share one significant story of his integrity.  One year after several games into the American Legion season he realized that one of his players had falsified their birth certificate.  Coach Barbour didn’t hesitate to let the league office know, even though he realized it would result in the forfeiture of the games the young man had played in.  You see that’s just the type of man and coach he was…honest to the core. 

            Coach Barbour was the epitome of someone who cared for others as much as he cared for his own family.  He impacted the lives of young baseball players even as they matured into adults.  Each of his players, including myself, was always treated like we were part of his own family.  He would go out of his way to make sure players had everything they needed to play their very best…from equipment to the field…even if he had to spend his own money to get it done.  He spent countless hours working on the field at Douglas Byrd High School transforming it into one of the best fields in the area.  I can recall numerous times where I would drive by on weekends and Coach Barbour would be working on the field…making sure the grass, infield, pitching mounds and dugouts were up to par with many college and professional facilities.  Of course it took years for Coach Barbour to transform the field but that’s somewhat my point.  He was willing to sacrifice his time to make sure the players had the best facility possible.  The Bible teaches us a lot about sacrificing for others and one particular verse comes to mind. John 15:13

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

You see Coach Barbour was willing to sacrifice his time for the benefit of others; especially his players and family.  Not once did he ever want to receive any credit for any of it…he simply wanted his players to be proud of their facility, school and their team.

            I could probably spend days writing about Coach Barbour, but I am limited to space here.  There are a couple more examples of his legacy and how sacrifice played a huge role in his life.  I believe I learned more from Coach Barbour about how to coach and treat baseball players than from anyone else. Not to minimize the impact of my former or latter coaches, which by the way I was privileged to have some great ones.  I’m just acknowledging what a significant influence Coach Barbour was on my life.  Eventually, I moved from being coached by Coach Barbour to coaching alongside him.  One vivid memory stands out…we were sitting in the dugout one night before a game and he leaned over to me and said, “Mike, it’s our responsibility to make sure those players believe they can win and not just compete.”  We were playing a very good team that night…one that was destined for the state playoffs.  He brought them in from taking pregame infield and inspired that group of young men that winning was not only possible but was a reality that was going to take place that night.  You see, all week during practice the team seemed to be down on themselves.  They had played a couple bad games and honestly didn’t seem too enthusiastic about playing that night, which by the way is evident many times during pregame warm-ups. But that night Coach Barbour spoke of courage, a desire to believe in one’s self and ultimately doing what it took for each individual to do their very best to give a 110% not only for themselves but for the team.  Heck, he even inspired me that night and we broke that huddle knowing we were on the brink of upsetting one of the best teams in the county.  By the way…we won the game and Coach Barbour gave all the credit afterwards to his players and his assistant coach, me.  It was just the kind of thing he would do.  Just typing that story brings tears to my eyes.  Again, with the story above we see Coach Barbour sacrificing his place in that victory for the benefit of others…truly an amazing man.

            As I look back on our times coaching together I see just how much he was willing to sacrifice the spotlight for the benefit of others.  It’s a coach’s dream to want to coach third base.  That’s where all the calls are signaled from the coach’s box to the batters and runners.  It’s a coaching position that can truly influence the outcome of a baseball game.  He never hesitated letting me coach third…not once.  He let me enjoy the spotlight…now that’s not to say he wouldn’t let me know if I did something wrong, but for the most part it was simply always a pat on the back and him saying, “Great Job Mike!!!” It always seemed we were on the same page when it came to signaling the plays.  It’s a connection we had.

            I heard many stories this past week as I attended his wake and funeral about how he had sacrificed himself for the benefit of others.  There is one thing that he always made a point to put first and that was his family. His wife, Melissa, was always by his side and always supporting the team…she loved on those kids like they were her own.  He always made time for his sons Scott and Chad…pitching to them after a game or after working on the field all day. His daughters, Jane and Laura…who were the light in his eyes…daughters that he always spoke so affectionately about and made it a point to let everyone know how proud he was of them.  It was that way with all of Brad’s family right down to his grandchildren.  He loved his family with the love of Jesus…that’s for sure.

              Coach Bob Paroli, a long time football coach at Douglas Byrd High School, spoke at Coach Barbour’s funeral about how he spent countless hours raising money to benefit the football program.  He raised enough money to build a college level press box at a high school football facility…that’s a tremendous feat to say the least!  Now keep in mind… he never, while spear heading the fund raising for that new football press box, stopped raising money for the baseball team and their facility also.  It’s just further proof of how he was willing to sacrifice for others so they could enjoy the special moments of their high school careers.

            I’ll never be able to put into words just how much Coach Barbour meant to me.  He was always willing to give me the shirt off his back.  (Come to think of it…he gave me his baseball jacket the first year I helped him coach!)  He continually sacrificed for the well being of others and the way he lived his life was an example for all of us to follow.  I believe the athletic director at Byrd said it best last week…”Heaven sure upgraded their angels this week.”  You might ask how do I know Coach Barbour is in Heaven…well it’s not only by the way he spent his life helping others but how he professed his faith on the baseball diamond and in life as well.  We spent countless hours in the dugout and on the practice field talking about our Christian faith.  So without a doubt Coach Barbour is already making out his first lineup card in Heaven this week.   I’m going to miss you coach!!! I know one day we will meet…and play ball together again.


Be blessed and always be a blessing

Pastor Mike