God ignored? What a newspaper story on a baseball player with a new heart didn't say

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Here at GetReligion, we talk a lot about holy ghosts.

On Day 1 of this journalism-focused website, Terry Mattingly explained the meaning of that term:

Day after day, millions of Americans who frequent pews see ghosts when they pick up their newspapers or turn on television news.
They read stories that are important to their lives, yet they seem to catch fleeting glimpses of other characters or other plots between the lines. There seem to be other ideas or influences hiding there.
One minute they are there. The next they are gone. There are ghosts in there, hiding in the ink and the pixels. Something is missing in the basic facts or perhaps most of the key facts are there, yet some are twisted. Perhaps there are sins of omission, rather than commission.
A lot of these ghosts are, well, holy ghosts. They are facts and stories and faces linked to the power of religious faith. Now you see them. Now you don’t. In fact, a whole lot of the time you don’t get to see them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Most of the time, we witness holy ghosts from afar. We don't know what happened behind the scenes. We can't say for certain whether a reporter missed an obvious religion angle or chose to ignore it.

But recently, my full-time role as chief correspondent for The Christian Chronicle overlapped with my part-time GetReligion gig and gave me an up-close view of holy ghosts. 

Here's the scoop: Just months after receiving a new heart, Kansas high school baseball player Josh Oakley returned to the pitching mound. And the Wichita Eagle wrote a really nice feature about it:

But I learned that the pitcher's family — Christians of strong faith — were not totally pleased with the story.

Here's why: They thought the piece shorted what was most important to them. That would be God.

Yes, the Wichita newspaper referenced Josh Oakley going to "church camp" and mentioned the family starting a Facebook prayer page. But the pitcher's mother, DeVona Oakley, felt like more needed to be said.

"(The reporter) asked me specifically, 'How did you deal with this emotionally to get through this?'" DeVona Oakley told me. "And I said, 'God.' And I told him the part about all the thousands of people praying and all that, and that was just not his focus."

Of course, I was happy to tell the "rest of the story" — to borrow the late Paul Harvey's words — in the Chronicle:

It's an inspiring story of a young man and his family who cling to their faith as he battles for his life.

Before you read it, feel free to to grab a tissue.

Photo by Bobby Ross Jr., for The Christian Chronicle

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