Archbishop Naumann taking a swing.
The roaring of the crowd filled Community America Ballpark (T-Bones Stadium in Kansas City, KS) on Monday night for the 2nd Annual Pitching for Priests Softball Game sponsored by Catholic Radio. The priests of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph sought to defend their title from last year’s slugfest against the priests of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
It is a game that I look forward to and anticipate months in advance. Why? Because I love sports, especially playing them. My ordination classmate and fellow Benedictine confrere, Fr. Victor Schinstock and I took the field representing the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the monks of Conception Abbey. We figured that the KCK priests would come to the game seeking to avenge last year’s loss, so Fr. Victor and I were certain to be prepared for this year’s contest. We held a couple practices in the weeks leading up to the game, including enlisting several of the local youth to sharpen our skills.
Monday afternoon, as we drove to Kansas City, scattered showers threatened to put a damper on the evening game. However, with prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary for good weather, our Holy Mother turned what could have been a game cancellation into a night were fans only briefly had to fend off a light rain with their umbrellas. No game delays, no postponing, no cancellation. Play ball!
The atmosphere was great- well over 2,500 fans in the stadium, more than 30 priests playing for both teams, and one nice field to play on. One could see men and women religious, wearing their habits, cheering loudly alongside many parishioners of the parishes where the priests serve. After the singing of the National Anthem and a prayer, Archbishop Naumann throw out the first pitch of the game.
The game did not start all that well for our team. After a lackluster 1st inning, our team (the Missouri side), was unable to score any runs (or really get on base). The Kansas side hit well and drove in 4 runs. A total of 10 priests bat each inning for each team (regardless of out), so, with a roster of 18 players, not every priests bats in each of the 6 innings of the game. I hit a lead-off double my first at bat in the top of the 2nd inning. Apparently that sparked something for the men in blue, for we scored 7 runs that inning. Fr. Victor added a single and showed some great speed around the bases.
Fr. Paul, double to right field
Below: Fr. Victor keeping the rally going
Above: Fr. Paul and Fr. Victor, monks formulating a strategy (always dangerous)
Above: Joan and Chase Farnan, showing off their signs. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or embarrassed.
From that point forward, our defense was solid. I played shortstop the entire game, scooping up ground balls and catching pop flies and Fr. Victor caught everything hit his way in left field. Consistent. Dependable. We were playing good ball. The Kansas side scored only 2 runs each of the following innings. With Missouri up 5 runs in the top of 6th and final inning, we simply had to play defense and prevent Kansas from scoring. We did just that. The KCK priests failed to get on base during their last at bat, and we secured the victory 17-12 !!
If you cannot tell by now, I’m passionate about sports (and competitive) and really enjoy a good game of softball. This is a unique game, where the proceeds benefit the Vocation Office for both Dioceses. Last year they raised in excess of $25,000 and I expect they did the same this year. Also, this game supports vocations not only financially, but also in the witness the priests give by getting out, enjoying themselves, and showing that we are men simply called to a different way of life.
I am grateful for all of the people who showed up for the game and supported us. I am also thankful to my Dad for teaching me how to play baseball when I was growing up, so that I could contribute to the team in a positive way.