Miracle in Shreveport: A Memoir of Baseball, Fatherhood, and the Stadium that Launched a Dream

Miracle in Shreveport: A Memoir of Baseball, Fatherhood, and the Stadium that Launched a Dream

by David Benham, Jason Benham

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Overview

Miracle in Shreveport: A Memoir of Baseball, Fatherhood, and the Stadium that Launched a Dream by David Benham, Jason Benham

Twin brothers David and Jason Benham grew up with big dreams of baseball and an even bigger trust in God. Though they attended a small high school with no baseball field, turned down a professional offer so they could attend college together, and faced more than one missed pitch and injuries, they kept dreaming, praying together on the field, and believing in God’s provision for their lives.

David and Jason’s journey, from Little League to college to professional baseball and beyond, reminds us that even when we don’t know what God is up to, He’s putting together the pieces of our life’s puzzle and executing the plans He has for each of us.

Miracle in Shreveport tells the story of a family’s love, the power of prayer, and a game that is truly all-American. It is also the story of brotherhood staying strong, despite the threat of comparison in a profession committed to competition. Most of all, it is the story of being faithful in small steps, honoring God in the process, and trusting His hand in our lives. In this book, the Benhams call us to remember that when we follow God’s dream for us, we find it is better than we could have ever dreamed for ourselves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780785215981
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 03/27/2018
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 51,710
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

After retiring from professional baseball in 2002, David and Jason Benham, twin brothers and acclaimed entrepreneurs, began building their business empire, growing it to more than 10 companies spanning 35 states and around the globe. Their first venture, the Benham Real Estate Group, exploded to 100 locations and was named by Inc. as one of the fastest growing private companies in America. The brothers are happily married to Lori and Tori, with a combined 9 children, and live on the same street in Charlotte.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

THE BIRTH OF A DREAM

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again.

— Terence Mann,Field of Dreams

It was a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon in May 1984. The days of summer were closing in rapidly, and for two young boys the thought of no school for three solid months was exhilarating. We had just completed our morning chores — I (Jason) had mopping and bathroom duty, and David ran the vacuum. (He always got the easy jobs.)

As we coordinated our teams for another epic Wiffle ball battle with the neighborhood kids, Dad interrupted us mid-argument.

"Jason! David! I'm taking you to see a movie today."

Movies were a big deal in the early '80s — some of the greatest flicks of all time came out of that memorable decade. Not to mention some of the most incredible fashion the world has ever seen. Oh, the fashion! We rocked Kaepa shoes, parachute pants, Members Only jackets, neon T-shirts, and Brian Bosworth hairdos. You just don't get any better than that.

So even though we loved playing Wiffle ball, we didn't argue with Dad in the least. We jumped in the car and headed to the Walnut Twin Theatre — the best-kept secret in Garland, Texas. It was the only dollar movie theater around, and since Dad earned a pastor's salary, that's where we typically went.

He took us to see The Natural, a movie about a young boy, his dad, and a game that drew them together. It was a movie about baseball, the power of a dream, and the deep bond between a father and his son.

Little did we know the effect this movie would have on us, as it brought to life the very same relationship we had with our dad around the same game.

Roy Hobbs (played by Robert Redford) was a young farm boy with remarkable talent that was hard for his dad to miss. As the two of them played catch in the backyard, his dad said, "You've got a gift, Roy. But it's not enough. You've got to develop yourself. If you rely too much on your own gift, then you'll fail."

That sounded just like our dad. He talked to us the exact same way when we were in our backyard playing catch. He could see we had talent, but he always reminded us that talent was never enough.

Roy and his dad shared a dream together — that one day he would make it to the big leagues and be the greatest player ever.

But before his dad could see this dream come true, he died of a heart attack, right under an old oak tree in front of their little farmhouse.

Now, we must admit, even though we were only nine, we both got choked up pretty good. That's a tough pill for any young boy to swallow. (I think David may have scream-cried in the back row.)

Roy ended up making a bat out of the wood from that tree and went on to pursue his dream — alone. Yet the bond of baseball still drew him close to his father. Ultimately, after taking a few wrong turns along the way, Roy realized his boyhood dream and became one of the game's greatest players. But he did it alone, without the man with whom he longed to share it.

The movie ended with Roy Hobbs, as an older man, playing catch with his son the same way he had with his father.

To say that movie affected us would be an understatement. We walked out of the theater that day with a newfound exuberance for the game of baseball and the hope of one day playing professionally with our dad watching from the stands.

Our dad's love for the game of baseball ran deep. We grew up on his stories of all the Yankee greats — Mickey Mantle, Moose Skowron, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, and all the legends. He also taught us that true Yankee fans don't like Roger Maris. Still can't quite figure that one out.

His love for baseball, and the Yankees in particular, came as the result of one fantastic day in his life when he was ten. His dad — our grandpa — was a saloon owner in Syracuse, New York. While our dad always believed Grampa to be a good father, our grandpa was also very busy with the saloon and had an affinity for gambling. So he and Dad didn't spend a lot of time together.

But the one thing that drew them together was a mutual love for the game of baseball.

Once, Grampa came home from the saloon in the wee hours of the morning during the school week and woke up our dad. He asked him, "What's the one thing you would like to do more than anything else in the whole world?"

Although caught off guard, Dad responded, "Go to a Yankees game!"

"Then that's exactly what we're going to do," replied Grampa.

Little did Dad know that Grampa had previously made all the arrangements — he already had him excused from school, bought the plane tickets, booked a hotel, and bought game-day tickets to see the 1958 Yankees.

When Dad tells us this story, he still gets choked up. Baseball was something he and Grampa loved together. It was the time when Dad felt closest to him. And while they didn't get to spend as much time together as Dad wanted, on this day everything was perfect.

Dad would replay every little detail of the story to us as boys, especially the moment he and Grampa were decked out in their suits and on the subway from the hotel to the game. As the subway approached the stop, it went up and out of the tunnel. And there, for the very first time, Dad saw the most beautiful sight his little eyes had ever seen: Yankee Stadium.

When they exited the subway, Dad heard the crack of the bat and could smell the popcorn, but, most of all, he could feel the love of his father and the warmth in his heart while holding on to his hand — a moment he and his dad experienced together.

As they neared the stadium, Dad could hear the music playing, and when they got inside, he said he'd never seen grass that green, and the most athletic men he'd ever laid eyes on were taking batting practice in their renowned Yankee pinstripes.

That day gave birth to a deep-rooted love for the game of baseball in our dad's heart. It was a love he was determined to pass down to us.

As we walked out of the movie theater, Dad was wiping tears from his eyes. He willingly admitted he had cried for much of the movie. What we didn't realize then was how deeply this movie affected him as it portrayed a love between a father and his son and how the game of baseball brought them together. Dad saw on the screen what he had shared with his own dad and what he had experienced that day in 1958.

We caught it that day — the very thing our dad had caught at Yankee Stadium — a love for the game of baseball. And on that May afternoon, as the three of us watched The Natural, a dream was born — a dream that we all shared together from that day forward. Playing professional baseball was our dream — not just for the two of us, but for the three of us: me (Jason), David, and Dad.

We had no clue what God had in store for David and me, but we were armed with a new determination to be the best baseball players we could possibly become. As soon as we got home from the movie, we were in the backyard playing catch with our dad.

We could never have guessed that just a few years later the dream would be refined even more — a dream about baseball, a father and his sons, and a stadium that brought it all together.

CHAPTER 2

THE STADIUM OFF I-20

And there used to be a ballpark Where the field was warm and green. And the people played their crazy game With a joy I'd never seen.

— Frank Sinatra "There Used to Be a Ballpark"

Today it sits empty and abandoned, infested by bats (the flying kind) and invaded by weeds, just a shell and a memory of the dreams, the energy, and the drama it used to hold. But for twenty-five years, Fair Grounds Field in Shreveport, Louisiana, hosted some of the best of professional baseball around — that is, minor league baseball.

Hot, sticky summer nights. Hot dogs, nachos, and popcorn. Bright lights. Crazy entertainment between innings. Country music and the seventh-inning stretch. And players fueled by the hope of making it to the big leagues, or filled with fear, clinging to one last shot at the dream that had driven them for years.

As Brett Mandel wrote in his book Minor Players, Major Dreams, "Minor league baseball is where big dreams meet slim chances and wide-eyed boys develop into big-league men — or hang up the uniform for the last time. In the minor leagues — between the chalk lines, in the uniforms, on the bus trips, and behind clubhouse doors — the magic can be felt."

Minor league baseball is indeed a world unto itself. From the Biscuits of Montgomery and the Flying Squirrels of Richmond, to the Muckdogs of Batavia and the IronPigs of Lehigh Valley, minor league teams are as diverse and colorful as the cities in which they reside. Almost 250 teams make up the Minor League system all across the country and in Mexico, Canada, and the Dominican Republic. With twenty-five players on a team, you're talking about more than six thousand baseball players, all hoping to one day get the call.

And that, at its root, is what minor league baseball is all about. Take away the stadiums, the fans, the nicknames, the lousy food, the long bus rides, and the often horrendous performances of the national anthem (we've heard some crazy ones over the years), and you're left with about six thousand men — some still teenagers, some pushing forty — all chasing their childhood dream.

That's what Fair Grounds Field in Shreveport, Louisiana, represented for us — a dream. It's sad for us to think about the stadium's demise because, for much of our youth, Fair Grounds Field was a thriving stage for our own dream, a dream that strengthened when we were kids during one summer road trip.

Summer Drives to Georgia

It was just before dawn. Jason and I had been up late the night before because excitement about our vacation kept us awake. Think Christmas in July for a couple of spirited young boys, and you get the idea. Dad interrupted our peaceful slumber at 4 a.m., rousing us from our beds and spurring us to get into the car and on the road for the twelve-hour trip along Interstate 20.

"Boys," he whispered, shaking us gently awake. "Jason, David, wake up. It's time to go."

We groggily stumbled out of bed and slowly made our way out of the house.

Growing up in Garland, Texas, as the sons of a pastor, we didn't take elaborate vacations to the beach or the mountains or anywhere, really — other than to Atlanta, Georgia, to visit our mom's family. We spent our vacations there with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, every July, like clockwork, for almost twenty years. And every single year our dad would make us run the one-mile trek to the top of Stone Mountain. We'd top it off by watching the laser show on the flat side of the mountain that evening. If you need a good taste of the South, just head over to Stone Mountain during a hot summer night and listen to Ray Charles sing "Georgia" over the loudspeakers during the laser light show. It's a beautiful thing.

The bulk of our preparation was completed the night before the big trip. So in the mornings we'd just pack up our 1979 ice-blue Caprice Classic station wagon — a beast of a vehicle. We'd lay the seats down, spread out our sleeping bags in the back (this was before wearing seat belts became mandatory), and place the cooler — loaded with cold Reese's peanut butter cups, M&M's, and cans of Tab — behind the driver's seat. Dad always took us with him the night before to get the car washed and detailed. That was a big deal for us because it was our cue that the next day our summer trip would begin. Years later, to earn a little spending money while in college, we spent a summer detailing cars. We'd seen the process done to our station wagon enough times that we considered ourselves experts.

We piled into Baby Blue by 4:30 a.m. for our departure. And with $500 in traveler's checks in his pocket, Dad drove. Mom sat shotgun, and we snuggled in sleeping bags in the back, along with our older sister, Tracy. Dad made his way through our neighborhood and headed to I-20, where he picked up speed and settled in for the long trip east. Even now we still can remember the rubber clacking sound that the tires made as we traveled over the regularly spaced seams on the road. We'd drift off to sleep again in the early morning darkness.

About three hours later, as we neared Shreveport, Louisiana, Dad ruffled the tops of our heads.

"Boys," he whispered, trying not to wake up our mom, who was snoozing hard core in the seat next to him. There's nothing like the sight of your mom with her eyes closed, head cocked back, and mouth wide open. You can imagine the fun two twin boys had with that. Fortunately for her, there were no cell phones or social media back then.

"Boys, wake up," Dad said.

The sun had started its ascent by then. We woke up, rubbed our eyes, and saw in the distance where Dad pointed. To us it looked like the Yankee Stadium Dad had told us about in stories of his childhood. It was the biggest stadium we'd ever seen. We hadn't been to a Texas Rangers game at that point in our lives, or any other professional ball game, for that matter. But right off the highway, on the left side of I-20, sat the brand-new Fair Grounds Field.

"That's the Shreveport Captains' baseball stadium," Dad said. "That's where the pros play."

"You mean, like the ones we see on television? The same ones we saw in The Natural?"

"They're not in the big leagues yet, but they're pros, for sure — just one phone call away from the majors," Dad explained. "That stadium is where Double-A baseball players play. To get there you have to be drafted by a major league team. And this is where you play to prepare you for the big show."

Directly next door to the new baseball stadium sat Independence Stadium, home of the annual NCAA Independence Bowl football game, on the Louisiana State Fair Grounds. We'd seen that before and were impressed, but the sight of Fair Grounds Field captured our imaginations.

As young little-leaguers with a fresh dream of playing pro ball, the sight of a stadium where professional baseball players competed utterly fascinated us. We began to think of how wonderful it would be to play in a stadium like Fair Grounds Field one day. Maybe we could hit home runs in that stadium, just like Roy Hobbs did. It wouldn't be far from Dad, so he could watch us in person.

"Dad, do you think we could ever play in that stadium one day?"

"You bet you can. I believe in you, and I know the Lord has given you the talent to play the game," Dad told us. "Let's pray that one day God will not only allow both of you to play in that stadium as pros, but together, on the same team."

Passing by the Shreveport Captains' stadium that early morning was when, for the first time, the dream of us playing pro baseball together, at the same time on the same team, was birthed. But Dad didn't just give birth to a new dream in our hearts that day; he also sowed the seeds of earnest prayer to a loving God, teaching us to place our dreams in His hand.

Every summer from that day forward, as we drove down the interstate to visit family in Georgia, we looked forward to seeing the most amazing baseball stadium. Like clockwork, Dad would reach his right hand behind him and ruffle our hair to wake us up. We'd put our hands in his, close our eyes, and he'd pray.

"Lord Jesus, I pray that You would bless my boys. And I pray that one day these two arrows would get to play together in that stadium for Your glory. Amen."

As soon as he said, "Amen," both of us were zonked out again until we woke up at Shoney's on the other side of Shreveport. The restaurant didn't know what hit it as ravenous twin boys annihilated the scrambled eggs, bacon, and grits on the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. It was a tradition we looked forward to every year.

After spending two weeks in Georgia, climbing Stone Mountain, playing endless games of Wiffle ball with our cousins, and swimming until our skin shriveled, we'd pile back into Baby Blue and roll through Shreveport again on the way home. This time it was night, and the Captains were playing at home. We'd see the bright lights shining from a long way off, the crammed parking lot, the scoreboard lit up in center field, and we'd feel the adrenaline surging through us as we passed by.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Miracle in Shreveport"
by .
Copyright © 2018 David Benham and Jason Benham.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

1 The Birth of a Dream 1

2 The Stadium off I-20 7

3 Little League Life 15

4 In the News 25

5 A Jailhouse Prayer 33

6 College Days 41

7 Torrington 47

8 Hit-and-Run 57

9 The Draft 67

10 A Red Sox Rookie 77

11 Bluefield Baseball 85

12 Meet Me in St. Louie 95

13 Broken 105

14 Dying to the Dream 113

15 A Summer Visit 121

16 Home Run Derby 127

17 A Crazy Idea 135

18 A New Day 143

19 Break It Up 151

20 Shreveport 159

Epilogue 169

Appendix: Article from the Dallas Morning News 177

Notes 191

About the Authors 195

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Miracle in Shreveport: A Memoir of Baseball, Fatherhood, and the Stadium that Launched a Dream 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Pattistep More than 1 year ago
What a great story! The Benham Brothers have written an inspiring and entertaining account of their baseball careers. Fans of the game will enjoy their account of their life in college and professional baseball. But this book is so much more than that. The main emphasis is on the love of family and faith in God in circumstances that seem impossible. I came away with great respect for the Benham brothers’ parents and the strong foundation of faith they gave their sons. By the time you get to the “Miracle in Shreveport”, you’ll be cheering for the brothers with a tears in your eye. More importantly, you may even look at the circumstances in your own life in a different way. This is not just a book about baseball. It’s a book about trusting God in the life He has given you. I received a copy of this book for review. I was not required to give a positive review. This is my honest opinion about this book.
BPenceofCoramDeotheBlog More than 1 year ago
This true and inspirational story is about the dream of twin brothers David and Jason Benham. Their dream was to play professional baseball. With their father’s pastor’s salary, the family couldn’t take elaborate vacations growing up, so each year they would travel from their home in Garland, Texas to Atlanta, Georgia to visit their Mom’s family. On their route was Fair Grounds Field, home of the Shreveport Captains minor league team. As the family would pass by the stadium each year, their father Flip would lead them in prayer that God would one day allow his two boys to play in that very stadium as professionals and on the same team. Now that’s quite a dream. The boys and their father placed that dream in God’s hands. The book tells the story of the two boys and their respective baseball careers, their successes and setbacks. As their father taught them to be faithful as baseball players, they watched him model faithfulness as a father even more. The twins had great success in high school, but on a pastor’s salary, would need full-ride scholarships if they were to play baseball in college. God answered that prayer with full-ride scholarships to play baseball at Liberty University. The boys had a dream of leading Liberty to their first ever win in the NCAA regional tournament. They also had a dream of being drafted by major league baseball teams, a prayer that God also answered for both David and Jason. You don’t need to know much about baseball to enjoy this hard to believe story. It’s less a story about baseball than it is about being faithful and trusting God with your dreams. The brothers interject a lot of humor in the book, and there are also numerous accounts of them dropping to their knees to pray. This was a very enjoyable book, and a quick read. I hope to see this book made into a movie in the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I knew what I was going to get, and it was exactly what I wanted. Encouraging and inspiring.