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Blessitt Assurance: How One Tiger's Infectious Spirit Inspired Me



I first met Ike Blessitt while attending a spring training "fan camp" for the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, FL, in February 2016. Although a lifelong Tigers fan, I had never heard of Ike. And after learning of his professional-baseball history, I knew why. Although Ike had made it to "the Show" in 1972, he only played in four games that season, where he went 0-5 at the plate. By the time the 1973 season commenced, Ike had been sent back to the minors, a sentence from which he never again emerged. His obscurity was sealed.


Consequently (and admittedly), I didn't think much of Ike at first. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but I was more interested in the A-list Tigers such as Justin Verlander, Willie Horton, Al Kaline, Mickey Lolich, Mike Heath, Jim Leyland, and Juan Berenguer, who were also in attendance. Yet, as the camp rolled on, I realized that many of the A-listers (not all, mind you) were somewhat aloof--genuinely nice and collegial but distant in many inexplicable ways. But Ike was different. He evidenced a down-home spirit, treated everyone as if he had known them since childhood, always had time to answer questions or offer coaching tips, and wore an infectious smile on his face, as if it had been permanently affixed by some benedictio divina. By the end of camp, most of us had fallen under Ike's spell and would have gladly worn a button that read, "I like Ike." He had indeed become a fan favorite!


And Ike's uncommon friendliness extended past camp. Within a month of my return to Virginia, he had requested that I "friend" him on Facebook, which I promptly obliged. Over the intervening years, I have watched Ike post about his many encounters with friends, his love of baseball and all things Tigers, and his unflappable faith in Christ. Indeed, I have been most impressed with his uncanny facility at turning difficulties into triumphs. Not once have I read a posting where Ike complained about anything, even though he has much about which to lament. As a former professional baseball player, one might expect him to have some sort of league or team pension. Unfortunately, Ike doesn't qualify for the standard MLB pension because his term of "Big League" service was too short. Although he played in the minors for well over a decade, such does not qualify one for retirement benefits under current rules. Consequently, Ike lives in poverty. Yet he never complains about being poor. And he never commiserates about the racism he experienced from certain managers along the way--racism that no doubt contributed to his minor-league detention--or his many health problems in recent years. To the contrary, Ike's Facebook postings are always upbeat, humorous, and inspiring. For instance, he recently had to undergo the amputation of his left foot. The night before the surgery he quipped, "[T]omorrow I'll be a foot shorter." A couple days after the surgery, he wrote, "Well I got a chance to talk to my person who's going to make my prosthetics. I told him they have to be at least 4 ft 7 in because for me to ride on the roller coaster at Cedar Point or Disney World I got to be 4 ft 7." What an amazing spirit of optimism and positivity! Who says things like this while enduring such lifechanging trauma?


The answer is quite obvious to me...only a man with the blessed assurance of his Lord and Savior! Only a man who knows the Great Physician and who possesses unflinching eternal security can stare the befanged archfiends of life in their eyes, plant his feet firmly, and not give an inch of ground. I am honored to know Ike Blessitt and to call him a friend. He has inspired me more than most and has done a great deal to harden my resolve in the Lord...to make real the written truths of such iconic verses as Proverbs 17:22, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 12:2, and Philippians 4:8. I am indeed a better man and believer today because I have witnessed the unfeigned Blessitt assurance of one of life's true Tigers.


Press on, Ike!

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Hi Mark, I truly enjoy your stories, Bill and I lived in Detroit and then a suburb from 1954 until 1999 when we moved to Virginia. We loved all of Detroit's teams. One of my Granddaughters even had her picture taken with one of the famous hockey players. she was so excited about that. I know it is so great to have a friend like Ike. You can't find many like him anymore. Keep the stories coming. I really enjoy them.

Ruth Gombos

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