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Richardson blames it on faith

March 18, 1999|By BOB PARASILITI

From where most casual fans stand, athletes have become full of greed and individuality.

From where Bobby Richardson stands, athletes - like those playing baseball - have become full of something which is ultimately important. That is an acceptance of God and what he brings to a life and a career.

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That grace isn't always prevalent during the competition or under the glare of television cameras, but the fellowship movement is strengthening with every passing day.

"I think religion and sports is growing," said Richardson, whose 12-year career as a second baseman with the New York Yankees included a Most Valuable Player honor in the 1960 World Series.

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Richardson conveyed his message of sports and christianity Wednesday as the guest speaker at the Western Maryland Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet at the Sheraton-Four Points Inn.

Religion has been a quiet force in pro athletics for many years. The FCA was formed by a college coaching friend of Richardson's to help bring the message to high schools.

"I've been active in the organization for 40 years," Richardson said. "The feeling was if the coaches and athletes who were Christian banded together, they could become a force. I work with the groups in the college and high school levels, speaking to the younger athletes."

Richardson said it wasn't a change for him. He has been a christian since age 14 and his faith helped him through all of his success in baseball. And while he holds a number of World Series records and won five Gold Gloves in his career, his greatest contribution to baseball may have been because of his faith.

Richardson helped start and headed the Baseball Chapel, an organization which helps provide religious services to players before games. The Hagerstown Suns are a member of the organization with the help of Rev. Terry Hoke.

Locally, the Western Maryland FCA chapter holds a number of "huddle groups," led by coaches helping young athletes learn to enjoy athletics through christianity.

"Every team has a devotion every Sunday before games and I think teams are averaging 15 to 17 players attending them," Richardson said. "Finances are such a big part of the game now and players are finding out that they don't satisfy their real needs. There is a hunger in athletes, especially after they retire."

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