The YMCA of Indiana County welcomes a nationally known former professional athlete as the guest speaker for the 58th annual Good Friday breakfast later this week.
Sid Bream, a first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates for most of his big league career, retired from the game 20 years ago and now lives with his family in the land of the Jolly Roger, in Zelienople. He did some coaching in the minor leagues, spends a lot of time big-game hunting, and now serves as the national spokesman for the faith-based charity Christian Sports International based in Pittsburgh.
An online biography calls Bream a motivational speaker, but he says he is just as much an inspirational speaker.
He will keynote the breakfast at 6:30 a.m. Friday at the Rustic Lodge in White Township.
Over the last 25 years, Bream and other CSI speakers — including former Pittsburgh Steelers Jon Kolb and Robin Cole and ex-Penn State football star Leo Wisniewski — have reached out to more than 610,000 children and adults through sports camps, educational programs and workforce development programs.
The CSI speaking team aims to deliver, especially to children, a mix of “sports skills, life skills and healthy lifestyles through an innovative approach so they may have the chance to become the best of the best.”
And basing their messages on their Christian lifestyles and faith in Jesus, they include events sponsored by sports teams, church groups and community organizations — such as the YMCA — on their speaking circuit, relying in no small part on their star power to reach broad audiences.
Doubtless, Bream carries instant name recognition, though some in western Pennsylvania might consider his more a kind of infamy.
Having left the Pirates for the Atlanta Braves as a free agent in 1991, Bream legged his way toward home plate in the bottom of the ninth inning in the seventh game of the 1992 National League Championship Series and slid in for the winning run, beating a throw from Pirates outfielder Barry Bonds and catcher Mike LaValliere’s tag, and capping a comeback win that sent Atlanta to the World Series.
The Pirates never saw the playoffs, or even a winning season, for the next 20 years.
For Bream, that dramatic play wasn’t a divine gift that allowed him and the Braves to go on to face the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series. Instead, it positioned him to talk about God’s real gifts in life.
“I would have gone into obscurity if it wasn’t for that play in ’92 when I slid home. That gave me the platform to be able to speak,” Bream said. “Without that, I really truly believe that even though I had 10 years in major league baseball … the popularity that I have received is because of that one slide that is still ranked the fourth most exciting play in major league history.”
Bream grew up in eastern Pennsylvania in a family active in the Methodist Church, went on to Liberty University, a Christian school in Lynchburg, Va., and became a more active witness for Christ when he went on to professional baseball.
“I was deemed a chapel leader every step that I made in the minor leagues and into the major leagues because of my past,” he said. “During my time in minor league baseball, my testimony of my faith became alive to me.”
His experience in that time as a young adult has helped him to identify why it’s important to spread his Christian message through CSI, as the organization focuses on making a lifelong impact on children’s lives.
“When you consider that 80 to 85 percent of kids that go into a secular university, who have been raised in a Christian home and have professed their relationship with Jesus Christ … and then fall away from their faith,” Bream said. “There are professors that are challenging kids, and that’s not a bad thing in some ways. But at the same time most of these kids have not been challenged in their faith. And you have the peer groups that are growing up pretty much godless.
“It used to be that you could not go a day without hearing mention of God, whether you went to school and there was a moment of meditation. Today, there is no mention of God because the ACLU will be on your tail with a lawsuit. And professors are sharing their humanistic philosophy that ‘there is no God, it’s all about you, it’s all about eat, drink and be merry, because tomorrow you die and there is no afterlife.’ That, to me, is what is taking place in our society.”
And while Bream counts on his notoriety to hold his audience’s attention, he warns people against putting celebrities and star athletes on a pedestal.
“Most people can’t even remember who won the World Series last year, let alone 10 years ago. They can’t remember who made the All-Star team or who was in the playoffs. It’s like anything else … when you live for the moment instead of living for what’s important,” he said. “When you live for the moment, shoot, it’s so quick, how soon you forget. … They are fleeting things, when you’re only as good as what you did for me yesterday, or even today.”
With Easter approaching, Bream said he’ll be reminding his Good Friday audience of Christ’s sacrifice centuries ago.
“If we all adopted that philosophy of living for Christ the way Paul the apostle did, I think our world would be a whole lot better off,” Bream said. “Being around Easter time, obviously I am going to be speaking on the theme that Christ loved us so much he was willing to die for us. Two thousand years ago, people watched Christ walk this earth, and saw the miracles he did and all that took place. If we were one of those, would we be believers?
“Today, with the Bible in our hands, and we have the opportunity to see the history, is it something that we’re pursuing as well?”
On Good Friday, and every day, Bream said, everyone could consider modeling their lives to follow Christ.
“Wake up every morning and say, ‘I’m going to choose to be a good person. I’m going to choose to do the right thing,’” he said. “And read Luke 9:23 every morning, where it says, ‘And Jesus said unto them, if anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me.’ When we take up our cross and understand what he did for us on the cross and how we’re supposed to live, we’re going to share that love with other people. People are going to see a difference in us, and it’s going to make a difference in them as well.”
Tickets for the Good Friday Breakfast are available for $15 at the YMCA. More information is available online at http://icymca.org/gfb.html.