Summer 2024

MLB veteran Scott Linebrink on the challenge of sports amidst COVID-19

COVID-19 has impacted almost every industry around the world — not excluding sports.

That’s true from America to Africa and everywhere else. Now, as American leagues such as the MLB and NBA have resumed, along with African national soccer leagues, fans contend with the excitement of watching their favorite players again while also abiding by new health recommendations. In Africa, soccer spectators must have their temperatures checked, wash their hands with soap before entry into a stadium and wear face masks. For many, social distancing inside beloved venues is a new, yet necessary, concept.

I had the pleasure of speaking about the global need for such measures and more with Scott Linebrink, former MLB relief pitcher and current partnerships director at Water Mission. His role involves making connections across vast networks and telling the story of how Water Mission is helping solve the global water crisis. Scott lends his talents and expertise to give others — mostly professional athletes — insight on what’s happening around the world in health, sports and more.

Zach Riggs: First, just let me ask: How are you and your family doing in light of COVID-19?

Scott Linebrink: You know, it was challenging those first few months. I live north of Austin, Texas, and we had shutdowns just like the rest of the country. It was unique trying to figure out how to live without leaving your house. A lot of Zoom calls!

But beyond that, I’d say it’s been good from a family perspective. My wife and I have two girls, and I was very grateful to spend a lot of time with them and be here with them instead of traveling.

Scott Linebrink Water Mission

Scott Linebrink and family at Water Mission’s annual Walk For Water fundraising event. (Photo courtesy of Water Mission)

ZR: From your involvement with Water Mission’s global response to COVID-19, how have you seen the pandemic affect countries outside of the United States?

SL: It’s been a lot harder on developing countries in many ways.

ZR: How so?

SL: Many developing countries already had desperate needs for safe water, sanitation and hygiene before COVID-19 hit. Along with the urgent need for safe water and soap, there was a huge need for hygiene training and learning materials. The health crisis exposed these needs. For Water Mission, it’s never been just about sharing safe water, but about providing educational resources on how to use safe water for hand washing and disease prevention as well.

Think about how hard it’s been for us in America. Even with hand sanitizer everywhere, education and PSAs all over the place, and most people wearing masks, we’re still having outbreaks. Now imagine how difficult this pandemic is for communities that don’t know how the virus spreads and how to prevent it, and don’t have the resources to do so. Education and physical resources go hand-in-hand to stop the spread of COVID-19 around the world.

Scott Linebrink Water Mission

A Water Mission staff member hands out coronavirus-specific educational material in Tanzania. (Photo courtesy of Water Mission)

ZR: That makes a lot of sense. From your perspective, why do you think Americans, particularly the American Church, should assist other countries during health crises?

SL: Quite honestly, I think it’s a very simple answer: because God commands it. The Great Commandments say to love God and love your neighbor. We show we believe in that commandment by obeying Him, helping our neighbors and showing them God’s love. A neighbor doesn’t have to be the person who lives next door, or even in the same zip code. The global water crisis is arguably the greatest problem our planet faces, and we can use our time, talents, treasures and influence to help put an end to it.

ZR: Tanzania resumed its national soccer league back in June. Do you think that shows how important sports are to the people of Tanzania and other developing countries?

SL: I think sports are something ingrained in all of us. In fact, I think it’s a basic human need, much like water. We’ve been playing sports across cultures for thousands of years. Sports bring people together and unite us in working towards a goal. It helps teach resilience in the face of adversity — character traits we carry over and use amid a pandemic.

I can’t speak for the people of Tanzania and the soccer coalition, but I know how big a deal it was for the MLB to start back. I know a lot of people have been comforted just by seeing a baseball game on TV. It’s helpful for us to know there are things we can still unite around. I think seeing players out on the field does a lot of good and I know it does wonders for our mental, emotional and relational health.

Scott Linebrink Water Mission

Water Mission serves communities in Malawi where the local children play recreational soccer. (Photo courtesy of Water Mission)

ZR: You have hundreds of colleagues around the world who are working on the front lines of this crisis. From what you’ve learned from them, could you share how people can pray for what’s going on in the world and how to support the work Water Mission is doing?

SL: There are so many things to pray for: adequate access to food, safe water, hand washing and hygiene resources, health services, and shelter, to only name a few. I would encourage people to not get lost in, or get overwhelmed by, the needs of the world. When I say more than 2.2 billion people lack safe drinking water, that goes beyond my comprehension. I can’t fully grasp the weight of that problem.

But one thing I think we can all ask God is, “How do You want to use me?” It’s a bold prayer, and something that you have to be prepared for because you never know the answer you may get! It could be to help end the global water crisis, or it could be something completely different. It may be something in your own community, or something in another part of the world. But God has a plan for each person, and He’s equipped them with unique gifts and talents to carry out that plan.

I believe the discovery of how God wants to use you and the obedience to go and do that is perhaps the greatest measure of success a person can have. If everybody prayed that prayer and honestly pursued it, we would live in a much different world.

If you believe God is leading you to join the work Water Mission is doing to transform lives, consider joining their team of supporters today.

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