Tonight I had the pleasure of meeting one of my childhood heroes, Al Oliver. I listened intently as he shared from his heart and life’s experiences. But I didn’t want to keep these powerful words to myself, so I wrote them down so many could benefit from his motivational speech. These are the words Al Oliver shared with us.
“Our nation is dealing with a spiritual degeneration. People are turning their backs on God. We’ve all been gifted, and we must use our gifts. We don’t respect life or one another. No one is better than others. I was a human being before I became a professional baseball player. Race is the human race. We all come and leave the same way. My goal is to shake people up with this message: Love one another. That’s the only way we’ll make it: together.”
Oliver talked about his relationship with the legendary Roberto Clemente who played next to him in right field for the Pittsburgh Pirates. ”Roberto was a leader by example. He said, ‘Al, all you need to do is stay in shape and you’ll become one of the great baseball players.’ Roberto would ask, ‘how can we have so many rich people and so many hungry people?’ When Roberto decided he was going to do something…he did it.”
To the students and athletes who attended the event, Al Oliver had some straightforward words. “When your parents tell you something, do it because they’ve been through it, and they’re not going to lead you wrong. Anyone here can be what you want to be. It’s a mindset! Chase your dreams and don’t give up on yourself.”
People told Al when he was growing up that he should be a preacher, but he never felt God’s call to be behind a pulpit. Tonight people came expecting him to speak about black history, but listen to the words he used to close his message. “Jesus died on the cross for each of us to have the choice of everlasting grace. We’re here because of God’s grace to do the things he allows us to do. Look into your heart.”
When Oliver was asked, “What are you most proud of when you look back over your life?” Al responded, “My parents and how they raised me. If you have a strong foundation you’ll know how to get back on the highway when you’ve gotten off the road.”
I had the rare privilege tonight of opening my childhood scrapbook filled with pictures of Oliver and the Pittsburgh Pirates during the early 1970’s when the Pirates were an amazing team and won the World Series in 1971. Al took time and enjoyed these memories and pictures with me. I was thrilled to hear him use his platform to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Not only did I get Al’s signature on his picture, but I also saw God’s signature written all across his life. I met a man who is living his life with a value that mirrors and magnifies his Creator.
By Glenn Sprunger