And a nasty life-changing incident
Australian John Ramsden had dreams of becoming a professional baseball player. But those dreams were shattered after a tragic incident during a game.
John’s state and international baseball career ended abruptly when he was hit in the face by a baseball at Norwood Oval South Australia during the 1981 Claxton Shield.
That was how it ended. But back to when it all started.
The switch to baseball
John’s baseball career began when as a young lad he switched from cricket to baseball.
He was spotted by a baseball pro when playing cricket in an under 14 side throwing a ball from the boundary.
Such was the strength of the throw it was suggested he should be playing baseball, not cricket.
Encouraged to play baseball by his loving and supportive father, this was to be one of life’s ups for John.
“Absolutely for me. Knowing nothing about baseball but just loving bat and ball sports that was a really good thing.”
“And just to be picked out by somebody who knew what they were doing because Rick played baseball for Australia, he knew an arm when he saw it so it was a fun thing to get started,” John recalled.
John’s hero, his dad
This was also to be a special time for John and especially his dad after John found out about his father’s deteriorating health.
I didn’t really get it until I was about ten years old. Dad had Hodgkin’s disease, but he loved baseball and he would come to every game and help Rick.
John shared a memory from back in 1969 when he was an 11-year old and his dad was very sick.
“We were playing at Fulcrum Park in a grand final and the last pitch I threw struck the guy out and we won the game.”
“There’s a photo of my father running towards me with his arms outstretched and that’s a photo that’s indelibly imprinted on my mind of my father who loved me so much and loved that game.”
‘I gave my life to Christ’
John grew up in a Christian family in Heathmont Victoria and when he was 15 years old the spiritual side of his life began to have an impact.
“That’s when it came to me that what I had been hearing was truth.”
I remember distinctly sitting on a railing outside the church and giving my life to Christ.
“There was nothing I could do about my own sin and that Christ had died on the Cross when I should have been there and I gave my life to Him and at that point my life was changed.”
“I knew then that God was living in me and that I belonged to Him,” John testified.
This was another significant up time for John. His father had passed away earlier and that meant growing up through most of his adolescence without a dad.
‘The game was being televised’
Back again to the traumatic baseball incident in 1981 when John was knocked out by a baseball thrown at force just a metre away and hitting his head.
This was at Norwood Oval South Australia where Victoria was playing South Australia for the Claxton Shield.
It should also be noted John was not only representing his state but was a national rep as well. He was a star and one of the country’s elite baseball players.
We needed to score a run to go into the final against Western Australia and the game was being televised.
Which meant back home the family was watching.
“So they bring me into the game, the guy hits the ball back to the pitcher and I’m running towards second base and the second baseman gets the ball and throws it straight through me.”
‘It was like an explosion’
“When it hit me it was like an explosion. It hit me right in the face from about a metre away.”
It was like an old cowboy movie where they get shot and in slow motion they fall to the ground…
“….and the dust rises up and I’m there lying still and knowing I was done.”
It was while he was laid flat on the ground that John’s thoughts were on two things.
“I think there was a fight breaking out because the guy had thrown the ball at me on purpose and it became a big incident in the whole series.”
‘I thought of Jesus’
“It was on the front page of the local Adelaide paper. But the two things going through my mind was the pain my father had gone through in the cancer situation over a long period of time.”
“But secondly, having given my life to Christ as a 15-year old but really losing the plot as a 17, 18, 19-year old and baseball becoming everything to me and pushing my faith into the background.”
“I thought of Jesus very much on the Cross and as I lay there with all the confusion….”
I was remembering the pain that Christ went through on the Cross for me.
And with the baseball smashing into my face and finishing up in the hospital I gave my life back to Christ while in that hospital.”
‘If I could have my life over again’
The crucible of John’s testimony was the realisation that surfaced through the baseball incident trauma. Would he have done anything differently if he was to have his life over again?
John’s confession was somewhat unexpected.
“If I could take my life over again and either play professional baseball and have that ball hit me in the face…”
I would surprisingly choose that ball hitting me in the face because of the turn my life took.
“I tried to come back (to baseball) but because of the blowout fracture in my eye and because of the size of my pupil, light became a major issue,” as John what was to be a very clear message when he returned for his next and what would be last pro baseball game.
“The catcher threw the ball back to me, it bounced and broke my nose!”
“I thought, I’m done. Plus, I had double vision as well and every time I was pitching a ball and they were hitting the ball and I was seeing two of them…
I thought I’m going to get killed so I stopped.
This was the first part of John’s life that took an amazing direction after he gave up baseball.
John Ramsden has been married to his lovely wife, Flerina, for over 31 years and has three children: Melody married to Paul Lewis; Coby – married to James Docking; and Samuel – married to Oliva. He is the grandfather to 5 beautiful grandchildren.
John and his family have worshipped at Canterbury Gardens Community Church for over 15 years. During that time, he has been involved with the youth leadership team. He has also contributed to the church’s music and worship ministry areas.
During 2009, he began to serve the church as an Associate Pastor in the area of pastoral care, as well as continuing to lead worship and preach on Sunday mornings. In 2010, John’s role was changed to part-time pastor rather than associate pastor. John enjoys getting alongside and chatting with people and their families. John’s main ministry responsibilities include pastoral care, Care Link (the meals and visiting ministry), Kidz Church, Sunday 10:30am Worship and Marriage Ministry.
Pastor John Ramsden – Canterbury Gardens Community Church / 281 Colchester Rd, Kilsyth South 3137 http://www.cgcc.org.au/