This article is about a man who most of you have never heard of unless you grew up during the 90’s in North Mississippi and played baseball in high school or American legion baseball in the summer. I just received the news today that coach Lightsey went home to be with the Lord. He fought a battle for a long time and finally, God decided enough is enough and He ended the suffering. I know that the Lord had to end the fight because coach Lightsey was not a quitter. I guarantee you that he fought tooth and nail until the very end.
I first met coach Lightsey when I was 16 years old. Being a 16 year old athlete, I was cocky and thought I knew it all. That is why I dread the teen years for my own kids 🙂 . Anyway, this was during a difficult period in my life. I had begun to make some very poor choices and was headed down a path that many have gone down and many have never recovered from, unfortunately. I was working a summer job and playing baseball in the evenings. I learned a lot from coach Lightsey that summer. He was such a down to earth man. He always had great advice and he gave it in a firm yet loving way. After that summer, I went almost two years without seeing coach Lightsey again. After my senior year of high school, the Lord was working on my heart, leading me to a personal relationship with Him that would later lead to my surrender to the foreign mission field and to becoming a pastor. All of that was still ahead of me. I had just finished school and started working a summer job, thinking about what I was going to do with my life. I wanted to go to college and play baseball and had been given the opportunity. One day coach Lightsey called me and asked if I would be interested in playing for him that summer. I half-heartedly decided to accept his offer to play. As the season began, I began to get burned out and wanted to quit. Coach could tell that my heart was not in it. He pulled me aside one day and asked what was going on. I shared my feelings, stating that I was just not sure what to do with my life. He firmly and lovingly told me about the importance of finishing what you start and doing it to the best of your ability, mentioning that this is what God wants us to do in all things. I was speechless. I decided then to continue playing out the summer. Those words rung heavily in my ears all summer and when God did finally get my attention, I believe that coach Lightsey had a role in paving the way for that to happen. I am eternally grateful for his love and godly advice.
After surrendering to the ministry and leaving for the foreign mission field, I began to teach boys and girls in the small Eastern European country of Moldova how to play the game of baseball, using it as a tool to attract young people in order to teach them the Word of God. Many times, as I was trying to explain the game and teach the kids to play, I would think of coach Lightsey’s firm yet loving way of teaching. I tried to extend the love of God to those kids the way he did to me all of those years ago during summer legion games and practices. I hope that I was able to be half as successful as coach was at doing it. It also goes to show just how important it is to invest in the lives of the young people around you because you never know how God is going to use that person to change the lives of others. Coach Lightsey had no idea that by encouraging and teaching me that one day, that investment would end up being an investment in the lives of children and teens half a world away.
The world lost a good man today but I know heaven gained a good and faithful servant. To my friend Brad Lightsey, coach Lightsey’s son, a person who I spent some good summers with, I know that your dad is proud of you and I pray that you will continue to be the man that your dad taught you to be, impacting the countless number of young men’s lives with the love of God and a love for the great game of baseball. You have some pretty big shoes to fill but with the Lord’s help and guidance, you can do it. I am praying for all of the family and friends of coach Lightsey, that the God of all comfort would comfort you in the midst of this difficult situation. Coach Lightsey was used by God to impact many people for the kingdom of heaven and I know that he is enjoying the benefits of a life well lived, and lived for the Lord.