LEWISVILLE, TX: A fictional writer could not invent a more compelling storyline that filled our news cycle like the mysterious and unexpected death of Los Angeles Angels baseball pitcher, Tyler Skaggs. Stunned players and fans throughout the sports world paused to honor and remember their fallen teammate.
The first home game after the passing of Skaggs, the Angels planned to honor their fallen comrade. The outfield fence prominently displayed the image of Tyler Skaggs with the number 45 jersey. His mother, Debbie, bravely threw out the first pitch (a perfect strike) to the thundering roar of the crowd.
Every Angel player wore the number 45 jersey. The atmosphere in the home park was electric.
An exciting baseball game by any standards
With crowds standing, shouting at every pitch, the obvious question that hung over the adoring fans was: Will the game live up to the hype? It did.
The Angels favorite player, Mike Trout, homered and doubled in the very first inning. By the time the dust settled and almost before the fans could take a seat, the Angels scored 7 runs. When the games last out were recorded, the Angels had scored 13 total runs. Skaggs was born on 7-13.
Even more bizarrely, Mike Trout hit a home run 454 feet, a number that included Skaggs’ 45.
Furthermore, Angels’ pitching staff threw a combined no-hitter. This is the first of its kind in California since the Oakland A’s no-hit the Baltimore Orioles on July 12, 1991.
Honoring a fallen teammate makes any game thrilling, however, this story continues.
To rub salt in their opponent wounds, the Seattle Mariners, who apparently didn’t have divine assistance, pitchers Taylor Cole and Felix Pena, threw a combined no-hitter.
At the end of the game, the Angel players all removed their number 45 jerseys and spontaneously placed them on pitcher’s mound.
In post-game interviews, sports figures often mention that they believe a departed loved one was looking down on them even helping them in their athletic endeavor.
Felix Pena speaking in Spanish suggested, “An “Angel” was looking down on the team.”
Considering the unbelievable emotional circumstances surrounding the game, some might it hard to deny divine intervention. Perhaps Yogi Berra had it right with his normal insight when he is reported to have said,
“Baseball should be played 9 on 9 but to invoke God [or heavenly beings]
to help one side is unfair competition.”
If the Bible is to be used as an authority on other-worldly things, then the idea of departed loved ones (or people-angels) looking down on earthly activities to interfere with outcomes is highly questionable.
Hebrews 12:1 is the lone text that might suggest such a thing,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”
It appears this “great cloud of witnesses” are not the departed looking down on earthly events, but the great men of the Bible whose lives enabled them to be inspiring examples of faith to later generations.
Even though it is doubtful that Tyler Skaggs was looking down or assisting in the outcome of the game, he surely would have been pleased with the honor given him.
I don’t know his religious or spiritual beliefs, but by all accounts, he was a good human being—can’t be said of everyone. His teammates and friends who knew him best spoke highly of him; however, it is not his good name that will give him entry through the pearly gates. The keys that will open the gates of St. Peter is trust and faith in God’s Son sacrificing His life for eternal atonement.
Tyler Skaggs, rest in peace in the holy arms of the Savior. You will be missed and remembered.
Donald L. Brake Sr., PhD, Dallas Theological Seminary; Dean Emeritus, Multnomah Biblical Seminary of Multnomah University.
The author’s experience as president of the Jerusalem University College (previously Institute of Holy Land Studies) has given him insight into the historical and geographical background of Israel and the life of Christ.
Dr. Brake has led tours to the Holy Land and has taught the life of Christ and the Bible’s historical/cultural backgrounds for more than thirty-five years.