Pinch Hitter

When listening to the podcast by brothers Tony and Phil, I was struck afresh by this fact, “According to the Washington Times, 15 million children in the U.S. are being raised without fathers this year.” This is a breathtaking statistic. It almost causes one to read by it quickly so as not to feel its chilling effect or consider its far reaching implications.

Thinking about this current crisis, I was reminded of a gentleman in our neighborhood when I was growing up. Being one of the younger fathers, he became the dad of the neighborhood. He could outrun most kids. He could hit a softball farther, throw one faster, and played harder than most of them, too. He umpired in the Little League, coached the church boys’ softball team, and taught many of the church’s children (and adults) how to bowl. Although most of us had fathers in the home, everyone affectionately called him ‘dad’. He will soon be 82 years old. However, to the kids in my neighborhood he is still ‘dad’.

This man never attempted to replace the dads in the neighborhood. He simply came at the right times to do things the other dads were either unwilling or unable to do. He was not a member of a national organization (e. Big Brothers). He did what he did because of the character he possessed.

“Fifteen million children are being raised without fathers this year.”

Once I asked him about his younger years. He told me he was born in the South in a poor family. His father drifted in and out of their home, causing instability and emotional trauma, and constantly abused his mother. His older brother joined the military to help out financially, and ‘dad’ had to quit school in the seventh grade to pick and chop cotton to help with the family expenses. His life as a young boy was filled with one disappointment after another. He vowed that if and when he had a family of his own, he would be twice the father his dad was. According to us kids in the neighborhood, he was many times that.

What kind of neighborhood dad was he? He was kind of a pinch hitter dad. He was not a starter, but was always available at the right time for the right circumstance. Playing in the yard, giving rides and advice, he always seemed to be at the disposal of the neighborhood kids without neglecting his own. Many times his own children would invite the other kids to come and talk to their dad.   

I don’t know what the statistics were in those days of children being raised with no fathers. I’m almost sure it was not 15 million. The single mom crisis was just coming on the horizon then. However, I do wonder what affect pinch hitter dads could have on the current crisis of fatherless homes. Especially pinch hitter dads who are characterized by biblical manhood qualities as discussed by Thabiti — a man focused on honoring God, his parents, and women. That kind of man is also a man who is true to his word, pinch hitting for a man who has no interest in these things.

The circumstances and opportunities are clearly before us. In many cases one does not even have to go outside of his own family relationships. Do you perhaps know a nephew, niece, little cousin, or a grandchild who needs a pinch hitter? What was once commonplace perhaps needs to be rediscovered in the African-American community.

Maybe some of you brothers are already pinch hitting. I would love to hear how that’s going for you. Maybe if you share your story, you will encourage someone else. So how bout’ it? Who’s out there steppin’ up to the plate? 

Louis Love
Louis Love serves as the pastor of New Life Fellowship Church, which he planted in 1997. Joyfully married, Louis and his wife, Jamie, have three adult children and ten grandchildren.

C’mon Up!

  • Tony Carter

    When I was coming up, Lou, it was the high school football coach. His name is Antonio Suhuba-Baruti. He was more than a coach in our community. He was confidant, counselor, teacher, advocate, father-figure, and friend. Though he had his own children (two boys, two girls), to this day if you ask those young men he coached and mentored, they will tell you that he was one an all-time great pinch hitter. Thanks for wisdom, Lou. And the call to step up to the plate.

    • Louis Love

      Wow, Carter, praise God for all the pinch hitters who are really making a difference in so many lives. Mr. Suhuba-Baruti is an example of what we really need more of in these times.

    • Thabiti Anyabwile

      For me there were three men. I needed a lot of help! Was hard-headed!

      There was Coach Charlie England, a legend in N.C. high school sports. His career spanned the years of segregation down to the late 80s. Coach was EVERYBODY’S daddy! He influenced two generations of brothers from my hometown. Universally respected.

      Then there were the dads of two of my best friends–Hollis (Pee Wee) Clodfelter and Tinelli Bush. They just adopted me along with their boys. I think they saw that their own sons would be blessed by their investment in their sons’ friends. Tinelli even called me “son” and treated me much like one. He never gave me any pocket money, though :-). Pee Wee had a way of steering us that was clear but wasn’t oppressive. He had a smooth hand and was a constant encourager.

      I’ll always be in the debt of these men and praise God for them!

      Lou, you’ve challenged me to think about how I’m engaging (or not) with Titus’ friends. Great view on manhood and community, bro.


      • Louis Love

        This is really encouraging T. Sometimes when we are attempting to man-up the community, we forget about the countless men who are stepping in and knocking it out of the park.

        By the way, you having a hard HEAD must have been a real challenge :-).

  • JYL

    I praise God constantly that my son has a few pinch-hitters, Papa, Uncle Stephen and God-father/cousin Louie!

    • Louis Love

      Hey JYL:
      Thanks for coming on the porch. I thank God for the men in Jeremiah’s life. They have often stepped in right on time.

  • JYL

    When I asked Jeremiah about what he would say about his pinch-hitters–his exact words as a ten year old boy were:”they are diligent and set a good example for me!”

  • Pastor Bruce

    Great article! Lord send more pinch-hitters into our communities!

  • Antonio D. Scott

    For me it was my grandfather. He took me in once my father and mother split. Raised me as his son, even though he and my grandmother never had any children. I guess they felt as if I and my baby sister were their kids. My grandfather was a huge wisdom guy. Taught me about saving, the importance of an education, gave me tips on basketball, etc. When he passed, i was crushed.

    Funny thing is, now that I’m married I find my self in the same position. My oldest daughter is 10 and her biological father wants nothing to do with her. I found it to be a joy to step in and raise her along with my wife. I always admonish her to not have hateful or resentful feeling towards her dad, but love him in spite of. The joy that she brings to our family is just amazing. It’s been definitely challenging, but I know it’s worth it.

    Thanks for posting this! Took me back to a place that I’m grateful God allowed me to be in.