"You're Always on God's Team"

When Tommy Herr was traded to another team, he felt like his career was over. God had another plan.

By Tommy Herr

As appeared in

"I think you understand management's position." Dal was winding up. "The Twins would like you to report in time for tomorrow night's game against the Cleveland Indians in Minneapolis. Good luck, Tom."

I just wanted to get out of that office. Be by myself. Lick my wounds. Whitey was looking at me blankly. What emotions was he masking? I knew this wasn't easy for him either. Almost as if in slow-motion replay, he stretched out his hand to mine. A dozen thoughts swirled in my head. How would I break the news to Kim and the kids back home in Lancaster? To my folks? What would I do with our condominium in St. Louis? Where would I live in Minneapolis? I didn't know a soul there. How could I play baseball in anything other than a Cardinal uniform?

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When I walked out of the skipper's office a media horde was waiting. Amazing how news travels. I faced them in a daze. They posed all the expected questions: Are you sorry to leave St. Louis? (Yes.) Will you like playing for the Twins? (I hope so.) Are you bitter at the Cards, Tommy? (A little bit, I'm afraid, but I'm trying to understand.) Private moments can be so public when you're a professional athlete.

So here I am, sitting listlessly in front of my locker. I mean, my former locker. Number 28. It's nearly midnight. Everyone's gone home. I'd better get moving. I start to pull off my red stirrup socks and the rest of my Cardinal uniform. It will be for the last time. It hurts.

Saturday morning. Here I am on the plane to Minneapolis. The flight is bumpy and seems long. I try to nap, unsuccessfully. I can't get last night out of my head. The first thing I did after talking with Whitey and the press on Friday was call Kim back home in Lancaster. She and the boys, Aaron, seven, and Jordan, two, were planning to come to St. Louis for the season after school let out.

"Kim, we've been traded." Pause. I could sense her shock through the wire. Kim started to cry softly. When a ballplayer is traded, his family is traded along with him. Kim was thinking about the other Cardinal wives she'd have to say goodbye to, their prayer group she'd helped start. Baseball wives feel like teammates. They form many of the same bonds and alliances among themselves as their husbands do in the clubhouse. Sometimes a trade is harder on a wife than on the player.

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"We're going to Minnesota."

"Well," Kim replied, catching her breath, "I know this must be God's will, Tommy."

I know it too, but that isn't helping me much with the human side of things. I know I am part of God's great plan, a plan that is infinitely more important than the little twists and turns in my baseball career, but my ego has taken a major broadside. All my life I've triumphed at sports. Back in Lancaster at Hempfield High I starred in track, baseball, basketball, football. You name it. If you could kick it, throw it, bat it, catch it or run after it, I was good. I was blessed. I signed with the Cards right out of school, and in a few years I was playing in the bigs. I'm not accustomed to being told to pack my bags. I'm always the guy everyone wants...

Saturday night. It's late. My first game as a Twin was a disaster. I got to the park from the airport a few minutes before batting practice, just enough time to climb into the uniform waiting for me and shake a few hands. Veteran pitcher Bert Blyleven has my old Cardinal number, 28, so I had to settle for another. I was given 33. Interesting. A change in number didn't inspire me, though. I went 0-for-4 at the plate and we lost to a streaking Cleveland.

Here in my room at a Holiday Inn near the Metrodome I am restless. Sleep is impossible. I page through my Bible, but concentration is elusive. I'm reading Romans but thinking about
Busch Stadium—I realize that all the truth I need is contained right here in this Book, but I just can't seem to get my sense of rejection pushed out of the way. I call Kim. Aaron gets on the phone. He's crying.

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"Daddy, why aren't you a Cardinal anymore?"

Sunday. Another fruitless day at the plate, another sleepless night in my hotel room. Will things ever get better?

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Silly monkeys! Your credulous self-centeredness knows no bounds. Keep your imaginary celestial dictators to yourselves.

This is the kind of stuff that us rationalists laugh at you people about. Yet you continue to wear your intellectual deficiency openly.

Your stupidity is not harmless because it is so easily exploited. Your 'faith' is not to be respected, rather it is to be suspected.

The bizarre beliefs of your cult should be kept out of the public square lest you be ridiculed for overt stupidity.