Four men look at an 18-year-old baseball player, and they see a blessing.
The young man sitting in front of them has been picked by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round of the 2005 draft, and his life is already changing, to the tune of a $1.9 million signing bonus. The men are here, at a Red Lobster in Lakeland, Fla., a half-hour's drive from home in the small town of Fort Meade, to pass along some wisdom before the long journey begins.
In a matter of days, Andrew McCutchen's professional career will set sail with the Gulf Coast League Pirates. A team scout has told him that he is special, that he could be Pittsburgh's baseball savior, the next Barry Bonds. It's a lot for a teenager to handle, so Lorenzo McCutchen asked three trusted men of God to help lay a foundation for his son to fall back on when the world gets crazy around him.
They are attempting to speak directly into Andrew's heart, about staying true to himself, about keeping God first, about the pitfalls of the fame that could come his way.
"We were giving him his wings," Lorenzo recalls.
As the conversation moves around the table, Andrew is mostly silent.
He does not show his emotions easily, but the men eventually break through. Pastor Pernell Cornelius of Fort Meade, Pastor Dexter Howard of Fayetteville, Ark., and Pastor Robert Dowell of Lawton, Okla., have noticed Andrew's deep appreciation for the impromptu rite of passage.
By the end of the dinner, tears will gather in Andrew's eyes, and the men will cry together over their seafood.