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Frostburg Member Honors Sabbath During Baseball Championship

Story by Scott Shafer Published 2/22/13

Frostburg (W.Va.) member Gene Harden (center) enjoys coaching a high school baseball team and teaching them about honoring personal commitments.

When the Mountain Ridge Miners High School baseball team from Frostburg, Md., prepared to compete in the 2012 state championship game, they knew one of their coaches would not make the trip. Gene Harden, the team’s assistant coach and an active member of Mountain View Conference’s Frostburg (Md.) church, would not be able participate because the championship game would be played on Sabbath. At the beginning of the season, “Coach Harden” explained to the players that he made a commitment to always honor the Sabbath, and thus would not be present at games played on Saturday.

Harden has played and coached baseball since age 7. More importantly, he says, “I care about these kids.” Along with other coaches, Harden frequently prays with the team at practices, and gives team members his cell phone number. Graduates from three years ago still call to “talk with coach.” Harden says, “Baseball has done so much for me, and I am glad I can do something to make a difference in the lives of these kids.”

After starting the season with a record of 6 and 5, the Miners only lost one more game in a 26-game season to qualify for postseason play. Defeating a strong pitcher in the semifinals, the team advanced to play the defending champions at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Md. At a short practice on Friday afternoon, Coach Harden reminded the team, “I will not be with you, but I’ll pray for you.” Later team members told other coaches, “This must be awfully important to Coach Harden for him not to go with us.” Relating the experience, Coach Harden says, “It was a hard thing, but I wanted the kids to know that there are things a lot more important than baseball.”

The team went on to win 2-1 on a two-out double in the last inning to claim the state championship title. Coach Harden met the team after sundown as they celebrated in a parade through downtown Frostburg, and described the experience as the “highlight of my life.”

When asked what he would say to others who are facing Sabbath challenges, Harden shares, “It is a very difficult thing. There can be no compromise. If you compromise one time, you compromise everything. You will be rewarded if you do not sway from what you know.”

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