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Repair Our Losses and Be a Blessing to Us: A Night at the Congressional Baseball Game


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
Baseball legend Bill Veeck once noted:  “Baseball?  It’s just a game – as simple as a ball and a bat.  Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes.  It’s a sport, business – and sometimes even religion.”

Baseball is essential to the American spirit, it is complex and for people like me it is a religion, a true Church in which I find refuge. Likewise, as I get older and more disillusioned with the Christian Church and religion in general I tend to agree more and more with Annie Savoy in Bull Durham when she says   “The Only church that truly feeds the soul, day-in day-out, is the Church of Baseball”


I, like many people turn to baseball in times of trouble. My frequent trips to the ball park after Iraq were places of solace where I could escape the terror of my PTSD.


Last night I went up with Chaplain Vince Miller to see the Congressional Baseball game at National’s Stadium in D.C. It was  a last minute decision. My friend messaged me Wednesday evening and suggested it. He got the tickets, we got permission from our bosses, rearranged our schedules and I got the hotel and drove up. When he contacted me Wednesday he felt that it was something that we needed to do, and I immediately agreed. There were two reasons for this; First some long overdue self care that you can only have from people who are friends who have lived the same kind of life you have, but second because both of us thought it was important in a deeper way. 

After yesterday’s attempted assassination of Republican members of Congress both of us felt it necessary to go to show our support for our elected representatives from both parties. Both of us felt the need to be there for the members of Congress as Americans because both of us still believe in the ideals and the promise that still resides in the people of this country. 

I believe that we can vehemently disagree about policy, but the answers are found at the ballot box and by deciding to become friends again. Likewise I believe that one of the best places for that is the baseball diamond where last night members of the Democrat and Republican Senate and House faced each other as friends during a baseball game, the proceeds of which benefited charities in the Washington D.C. Metro area. 


Wednesday’s attack was an attack on America itself, our institutions, and based on the violent rhetoric and intense anger of many people it could have happened to either team. So last night’s game was a balm for the soul of the nation and I hope a sign of better things to come. Maybe it took something like this to realize that we have ventured too far down the road of hate and intolerance to continue that direction.

Walt Whitman wrote that baseball is “our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”


The game was fun to watch both sides played hard but the sportsmanship, camaraderie, and friendship showed. From the crowd there were few boos or catcalls from either side of the nearly 25,000 fans of both teams. Before the game the members of both teams went to second base and took a knee praying for their colleague Representative Steve Scalise and the police officers wounded in the attack. Even President Trump struck the right note in his remarks which were broadcast on the center field scoreboard. Among the fans of both sides there was absolute courtesy that was so unlike the intense and often mean spirited partisanship that has consumed the nation for the past decade or more. I know that I can only hope that this will continue.

The Democrats overwhelmed the GOP with a barrage of hits while their pitcher Representative Cedric Richmond of New Orleans threw a five hitter, and struck out seven. GOP shortstop Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania who had been moved from third base due to the shooting of Scalise  showed excellent defensive prowess making a number of outstanding defensive plays.


But on another level this trip was good for me and for Vince as well. We had both thought it important to show our support by going and we likewise both knew that we needed the time together to take care of each other, but it became bigger than that. After the game we went for a nightcap at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant near the stadium. While we were there two members of Congress, Republican Congressman Mark Walker of North Carolina and Democratic Congressman Tony Cardenas of California came in and we both greeted them and thanked them for coming out to play the game after what happened yesterday. Ever gracious both autographed baseballs for us and Cardenas extended an invitation to visit him in his House office.

The fact is that we in the military deal with losing friends to senseless violence everyday, but this is not what normal people deal with, including the men and women who serve in the House and Senate. To go out and play a ballgame after your colleagues were attacked is not an everyday event and there had to be some amount of fear for anyone that went out onto that field, perhaps for the first time in a long time members realized that they too could be the target of political violence. I think that that shook many people to the core, and I believe that it took a measure of courage for them to play the game after the attack, but I digress… 

Our time with both of these Congressmen was important, they were surprised and pleased that two Navy Chaplains completely changed their plans and travelled 200 miles to watch them play baseball. It was also interesting because Vince is from North Carolina, and Representative Walker was a pastor for many years, and the family of Congressman Cardenas had been migrant workers around Stockton California, my home town. I’m not going to speculate but I am going to assume by how they treated us that it meant a lot to them that we and so many others stood with them last night. I think they realized as many others did, that this is about all of us, Democrat and Republican, and as I said before I hope and pray that this might signal a new and less hateful era in American politics. 

When we went back to the hotel we talked about the mystery that is the work of the Holy Spirit of God, not the fatalism of providence, but the mystery of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and those around us. It was about more than us, and to quote Jake Blues “we’re on a mission from God.” 

So I’m going to leave you with the mystery of the Spirit that worked in the hearts of two Chaplains who needed some time to take care of each other had our lives intersect those of a lot of nice people, 

So anyway, let us try to all do better. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Rites of Spring: Spring Training and Faith

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Sharon Olds wrote, “Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.”

This week was the true beginning of spring. I know that spring does not actually begin until March, but even so amid the continuing winter, spring is showing its first sign of dawning as pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training. As Bill Veeck once said, “That’s the true harbinger of spring, not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball.”

I grew up with a love for baseball that was cultivated by my late father, we didn’t always agree on much, but he imparted to me a love for the game that knows no bounds.

For me that is true. From the day the World Series ends I wait in anticipation for the beginning of Spring Training and I can agree with the great Rogers Hornsby who said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” Now don’t get me wrong I like Hockey, Soccer, and Football, but in the end they are merely sports and entertainment, were Baseball is a refuge with profoundly religious meaning to me. As Bryant Gumbel once said, “The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love.”

I think that unlike so many other sports and entertainment that it has a healing quality that is good for society. Walt Whitman wrote, “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game — the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

In a society like ours, wracked by political division, social turmoil, and economic uncertainty, that is important. It can teach us a lot about ourselves, as Saul Steinberg wrote, “Baseball is an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex, and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem.”

When I came back from Iraq the ballpark was one of the very few places that I could go and feel absolutely safe. There is something comforting in looking out over that beautiful diamond, smelling the freshly cut grass, the carefully manicured infield, and taking it all in. In fact for me tit still is one of my few truly safe refuges where war, terrorism, political and religious hatred, and the endless ideological battles of conservative and liberal pundits and politicians take a back seat, and as they fade away I find a peace that I seldom find anywhere else, and that includes most churches where for the life of me I find neither peace, nor God. Maybe that’s why I believe in the Church of Baseball.

I guess that is why it baseball matters so much to me, and why in spite of all the craziness of this week, that the seemingly insignificant act of pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training means so much.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Only Church that Truly Feeds the Soul

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“The Only church that truly feeds the soul, day-in day-out, is the Church of Baseball” Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) in Bull Durham (MGM 1989)

Tonight I am going to the last home game of the Norfolk Tides. The Tides are our local Triple-A Minor League farm team of the Baltimore Orioles who are now 7 games up on the Yankees in the American League East. I love baseball. For me it is a source of peace, comfort and meaning in the sea of so much hatred, violence, inequity and injustice, angst and despair that fills our world.

Now honestly, while things seem are not good we tend to see life at any given time through they could be worse and certainly could be better they are not nearly as apocalyptic as the bearers of bad news make them out to be. Barbara Tuchman wrote “Disaster is rarely as pervasive as it seems from recorded accounts….The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five-to tenfold.”

This is especially true for those who follow that loathsome Trinity of Evil, the Politicians, Pundits and Preachers who make their living causing people to be angry, covetous, anxious and on edge.

When I read or hear some of the vile things being said by allegedly conservative Bible believing Christian leaders be they politicians, pundits or preachers, or in the case of Mike Huckabee a despicable combination of all three, I become more convinced that Annie Savoy was right… the only church that truly feeds the soul is baseball.

In fact when I hear the likes of the Partisan Political Parsons, any of the big Mega-Church Pastors or television ministry hosts, or even some Catholic bishops start spouting off I feel like I have left this country and ended up in Medieval Europe or maybe Saudi Arabia. I wonder where the love has gone. When I read the words of men like Pat Robertson, James Robison, James Dobson, Bryan Fischer, Scott Lively, Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer and so many others I understand why people are fleeing the church in droves and so many hold the Christian faith, as well as other religions in such disdain.

Jonathan Swift once mused about the religion of his time, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough for us to love one another.”   Swift’s words are a perfect description of the American Religious Right as much as they are of non-Christian groups who hate, the Moslem extremists of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Boko Haram and the Taliban; the Ultra-Orthodox Jews who think that they are the only acceptable form of Judaism and physically attack other Jews for not being Jewish enough even while persecuting Israeli citizens who are Christian or Moslem; and the Hindu fundamentalists that burn down Christian and Moslem villages in India.

Thankfully, though I am still a Christian and at that a rather miscreant Priest and Chaplain that struggles with faith and belief, I also belong to the Church of Baseball. I am so because I agree with the late Commissioner of Baseball A. Bartlett Giamatti, who said, “there is nothing bad that accrues from baseball.” 

While I am very frustrated at what I see going on in the Christian church as well as in other religions that dominate other countries or cultures, when I think about baseball I know that God still cares. Every time that I look at that beautiful green diamond that sits in the middle of the great cathedrals and parish churches of the Church of Baseball, my sense of hope and faith is renewed.

To true believers, that may seem like heresy. But God even loves heretics and unbelievers. For me baseball speaks to the soul, maybe it is because baseball is more than a game.  Conservative political commentator and long suffering Chicago Cubs fan George Will said “Baseball is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes or games are created equal.” 

If that is heresy I don’t care. But then what is heresy? I don’t actually think that Jesus would recognize a lot of what we Christians do today as even being Christian.  I could be wrong but I recall Jesus was really big into the whole “two commandment” “love God with your whole heart and love your neighbor as yourself” way of life; and he wasn’t really cool with pompous religious leaders that give preference to the rich and powerful, and seek their own political power so they can use the state to enforce their religious views on non-believers like we do.

That is why I find something so right about baseball. Unlike the message of the political preachers that specialize in making themselves rich by keeping their followers anxious and angry while preaching the message that “God loved the world so much that he can’t wait to come back, judge and destroy it because of fouled up humanity” especially women and homosexuals; baseball caters to our hopes and dreams while recognizing that none of us, even those who play at the Hall of Fame level are perfect.

Unlike the false religious message preached by so many members of the Trinity of Evil, baseball deals with reality and life so well because of its ebb and flow. It deals with the grind of the long season, the constant demand for excellence and quest for perfection; but there is a realization that most of the time you won’t get there, and if you do, tomorrow you won’t and that is part of life.

Personally I don’t understand why if the Gospel of Jesus and God’s grace and love is actually true that we can’t apply this to our faith. Jesus, at least in the Gospel accounts seemed to accept the imperfections and foul ups of his followers, and not only that seemed to accept the people who the really righteous, religious leaders rejected and treated as less than human.

In fact, my paradigm of understanding the Christian faith comes from baseball. In baseball perfection is illusory and that life is full of times when things don’t go our way. It is much like real life and what is presented in Scripture. Ted Williams, the last player to hit for .400 said “Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”

For some of us it seems like reaching the Mendoza Line* is the best we will ever do, and if we believe in God’s grace, that is probably okay.

Tommy Lasorda the Hall of Fame Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager put things in excellent perspective “No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games.  No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games.  It’s the other third that makes the difference.”  That is true in life and faith.

While I am definitely a Christian I struggle and I admit it. I have enough of my own problems to empathize with others that struggle, but who in embracing the wacky formulas offered by greedy self-serving preachers treat Jesus and his message like some sort of magical talisman or good luck charm. But sorry, I agree with what Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert) said in the movie Major League: “Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.”

Thus I have many problems with the perfidious political and prosperity preachers that seem to have forgotten the Gospel, who are basically Elmer Gantry like snake-oil salesmen more attuned to keeping their market share than tending their flock. In fact, I think are actually driving people away from Jesus, and the polls of Barna, the Pew Religious survey, Gallup and others as well as the statistics kept by various denominations say that I am right.

When I watch baseball I feel renewed. As Sharon Olds wrote back in the early 1970s “Baseball is reassuring.  It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.” That my friends is why I agree with Annie Savoy that the only church that truly feeds the soul day in and day out is baseball.

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The late great and legendary Detroit Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell said: “Baseball?  It’s just a game – as simple as a ball and a bat.  Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes.  It’s a sport, business – and sometimes even religion.”   Yes, for me, the heretic that I am it is the latter, and tonight I am happy to be going to the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

*Mario Mendoza was a Major League Shortstop who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and other organizations. He was an outstanding defensive player but was not much of a hitter. His career batting average was only .215 but a batting average of .200 is considered the minimum that a player can have to remain at the level that he plays.  I think that my career batting average in both baseball and softball barely clears the Mendoza Line. 

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Easter Sunday, Baseball and Interviews

meharborpark“I believe in the Church of Baseball…the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.” Annie Savoy Bull Durham

For those that didn’t notice today was Easter Sunday. It is the Sunday where Christians remember and celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus and others go into diabetic comas because of the amount of candy they ingested even if they don’t believe.

For me it was a simple celebration of Eucharist at my Staff College Chapel with some of our students and their families. Following that a nice breakfast with Judy and then a trip to the ballpark to see the Norfolk Tides play the Durham Bulls.

It has been a busy and eventful week. First it was Holy Week and it was the first week of teaching my Ethics Elective for our current class, finalizing my Gettysburg Staff Ride “Tome” for this class and taking care of the ever bothersome military health and physical fitness requirements. In addition to everything else I made  four trips to medical and dental to get routine exams and paperwork accomplished so I can do my physical fitness test this week. As for a frame of reference even about 10 years ago guys my age didn’t need to do this. However the physical requirements I have to meet at age 54 in the Navy are little different from the ones I had to meet at age 22 in the Army. Of course I still had to do my taxes and other things around the house as contractors were back in on Friday doing the painting in the house. Hopefully by the end of this week most if not all of that is done, but I digress…

The Easter celebration of the Eucharist was really nice, several of our students and family members attending, which for my chapel is like “mega-church” numbers.

Following breakfast, or maybe it was really brunch I went over to Harbor Park where I met a photographer from the Washington Times. A reporter from that newspaper asked a former student of mine who serves as a Public Affairs Officer at the Pentagon if he knew anyone who knew something about PTSD and he referred her to me. The article will run tomorrow from what I am told. They liked the interview and wanted to get some photos of me in my natural environment, Harbor Park in Norfolk, a place which is a refuge to me and has been since I returned from Iraq. There is something healing to me about going to the ballpark. To me baseball is more than a game, it is an important part of my spirituality and my mental health.

The photographer stayed with me about 6 innings before having to return to Washington. It was a nice day. After the game, which the Tides won by a score of 6-3 with Kevin Gausman pitching well against a strong Durham team. The photographer and I had some nice conversations as she shot the story and followed me around the ballpark. What was nice is that I know the people there well enough after so many years of going there that I could just be me, I didn’t have to alter much, just have someone follow me around. Since I do a lot of baseball photography we were able to compare notes and I was able to talk to her about better equipment than I have for sports photography. That being said she did like some of the pictures I showed from past events. Who knows maybe I can do this after I retire from the Navy whenever that is?

Anyway. Tonight has been spent watching the movies Bull Durhamand Kelly’s Heroes. I go back to work tomorrow, yet have one more medical appointment Tuesday and then my Physical Readiness Test on Wednesday. The last won’t be hard.

In the coming couple of weeks you can look forward to more articles about Gettysburg as well as some other topics that I am doing some reading, reflection and research on.

Again, Happy Easter,

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

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A Beautiful Day for a Ball Game

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Yamaico Navarro singles in the Winning Run in the Tides 5-4 Win

Let’s go, batter up!

We’re taking the afternoon off. It’s a beautiful day for a ball game, a ball game today.

The fans are all our to get a ticket or two, from Walla Walla Washington to Kalamazoo

It’s a beautiful day for a home run, but even a triple’s ok!

We’re gonna cheer, and boo and raise a hullabaloo

At the ball game today…

“It’s a beautiful day for a Ball Game” 1960 Harry Simone Songsters

Well sport’s fans it’s Padre Steve blogging to you live from beautiful Harbor Park in Norfolk Virginia. Actually I am writing this live but since there is no wi-fi connection at the ballpark this year it will be posted a little bit after the game is over. Tonight I am getting to see my first game of the year in person and I am excited. Tonight the Norfolk Tides host the Charlotte Knights in the second game of a thee game set. On Monday night the Tides were hammered by the Knights who scored 21 runs against a seemingly hapless Norfolk pitching staff.

Tonight Josh Stinson is on the hill for the Tides and he is facing former Tides and Orioles prospect Jason Berken.

Tonight was a better for the Tides who were just 1-4 to open the season. Regardless I was happy to be here with the Harbor Park regulars that I call my friends. It was good to see my buddies Elliot the Usher and Chip the Usher as well as Marty the Card Dealer and sitting down behind the plate in section 102, my old season ticket section before I was transferred to Camp LeJeune in the fall of 2010.

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Baseball as anyone who reads this site regularly or knows me knows, is something akin to a religion for me. Not that there’s anything wrong with that “nothing bad accrues from baseball” a lot more than can be said for most religions and their most fervent, devout and often intolerant followers. The only thing a devout baseball fan might be intolerant of is artificial turf, the designated hitter rule and any bat made out of something other than wood. Of course any of us also have a visceral reaction to our favorite teams blood rivals, one needs to understand that the Dodger’s are evil. At least from this San Francisco Giant’s fan’s perspective.

Going to the ball park for me is one of the most relaxing places to go and a place of peace. Harbor Park, which I refer to as the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish has been that place of solace for me especially after my return from Iraq in 2008. It is a place that I feel safe at and since I still have a certain terror or crowds of people that is no small thing.

It is interesting to watch the game. A couple of years ago when I was a season ticket holder I knew most of the team but then I moved away and only got to a few games each of the last two seasons. The guys that I knew are either in Baltimore or with other organizations and some are out of baseball. The life of minor leaguers is hard, not much job security and most never spent much time in the majors. This year’s team has a number of veterans and journeymen who have been around the majors and minors with a sprinkling of young prospects. Some of the veterans include Russ Canzler, Danny Valencia and Travis Ishikawa. Prospects include Jonathan Schoop, Trayvon Robinson and L J Hoes. I expect that some of the young players at AA Bowie or High Single A Frederick will make their way to Norfolk before the end of the season.

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The game began under perfectly clear skies with the wind blowing in from the southwest and a temperature of about 80 degrees. It was dominated more by defense than hitting and at the end of the 5th inning the Knights had a 3-0 lead. Both teams removed their starting pitchers in their half of the 6th inning. The offense for the Knights was produced by 2 solo home runs by Jordan Danks and Seth Loman.

The Tides were down 4-0 in the bottom of the 8th when Trayvon Robinson doubled down the left field line. Russ Canzler belted his second home run of the season off Daniel Moskos to deep left to make it a 4-2 Knights lead. The Tides loaded the bases with 2 outs and scored another run when reliever Jeff Gray pinch hitter Conor Jackson. L J Hoes grounded out to the pitcher to end the inning.

In the 9th inning Tides reliever Adam Russell loaded the bases but worked out of trouble to keep the score at 4-3. In the bottom half of the inning Gray walked Trayvon Robinson and Canzler hammered a deep drive to left center which died at the wall. Gray then walked Danny Valencia. Travis Ishikawa singled to right scoring Robinson and advancing Valencia to 3rd. With one out and runners on 1st and 3rd Yamaico Navarro singled to center giving the Tides a walk off win.

Peace, Love and Baseball

Padre Steve+

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Opening Day 2013…and Be a Blessing to Us

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“Baseball is reassuring.  It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.”  ~Sharon Olds, This Sporting Life, 1987

It is good to have survived the last five months. The Mayans were wrong about the end of the world and despite the the best efforts of the Unholy Trinity of Politicians, Pundits and Preachers, in spite of Sequestration, North Korean Nukes, Al Qaida terrorists and troubles brewing around the world and at home we finally made it to Opening Day.

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Some for me baseball, maybe more than any other thing brings a sense of order to my universe. Some of my earliest memories involve baseball. I played in my back yard, in sandlots, parks and real baseball fields. I learned the game from my late father and when he was deployed to Vietnam my mom would come at watch my Little League games. Most of my broken bones have been the result of injuries sustained on the baseball or softball field, which make me look forward to my next assignment at the Joint Forces Staff College all the more since the faculty and students play ball almost all year round.

I have always loved the game and like Walt Whitman seemed to believe that there is something healing about it like no other game. Whitman said that baseball is “our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

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I wonder sometimes if Whitman would think that perhaps the Dominicans and Japanese appreciate “our game” more than us? Considering how well they do in international competition and how many of “our” star players come from those countries and others he might have something to say about it. Perhaps that the game transcends America itself and allows Americans to appreciate men like Ichiro, Big Papi, Robinson Cano, Pablo “the Big Panda” Sandoval, Jose Reyes, Hideki Matsui and many more, 243 on Opening Day 2012 that were on Major League rosters, over 100 being Dominicans.

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Now as for me I think that is a sign of the greatness of this game. It is a game that I think more than any transcends culture. To watch the enthusiasm of the players and fans of the non-US teams in the World Baseball Classic was a joyful experience for me. I don’t know maybe in our faced paced thrill a minute ADD inducing  and violence addicted American culture we have forgotten the joy that this game can bring. Maybe we are too cynical and have even done damage to it with the Steroid and Performance Enhancing Drug use scandals.

I don’t know, I could be wrong but I do think that a trip or two to a ballpark every year would be a good thing for every American. In fact I don’t even think that it would need to be a big league ballpark because the joy and mystery of the game can be found anywhere there is a baseball field where boys of every age find a bit of magic in  the crack of a bat, running out a grounder, stealing second base or striking out the side.

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The great Jackie Robinson said something that I think is incredibly profound: “Baseball is a curious anomaly in American life. It seems to have been ingrained in people in their childhood…. Baseball is, after all, a boy’s game, and children are innocent of evil. So even adults who are prejudiced revert to their childhood when they encounter a baseball player and they react with the purity of little children.”

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So to all of us who looked so forward to this day. Yes it is a day that comes every year, and for some people the season seems too long, the games too many and the pace, well not fast enough. But that being the case it is a human game, a game that I think allows has a spiritual sensitivity unfound anywhere else in sports. Yes it is a game, it too is a business and well for some people like me a religion.

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This weekend I plan on getting to a game or two at the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish in Norfolk Virginia. I won’t make the home opener, but I will get some of the Norfolk Tides opening home stand.

I hope to see you at the ball park this year. Trust me. It will do you good.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Giant’s, A’s and Orioles and the 2012 MLB Playoffs: Taking Me Back to the Church of Baseball

“I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones….It’s a long season and you gotta trust it. I’ve tried ’em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.” Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) in Bull Durham

As any reader of this site knows Padre Steve loves baseball. In fact it is a passionate love that goes back to my childhood thanks to my dad. I talk with good reason about belonging to the Church of Baseball.  I love the game and I find a lot of life lessons and draw much inspiration from it.  It is something that is good for my soul, baseball parks are among the few places that I feel absolutely safe and even baseball on television or radio can calm my often troubled PTSD afflicted mind. I love the game, I love the players, I love the people. I can’t say that about a lot in this world.

I have gotten to know a lot of players both major league and minor league, front office staff and among my favorites former players of the Negro Leagues.

This year is kind of weird. If lucky I might have one of my three favorite teams, the Giants, A’s and Orioles make the playoffs. The last time I had a favorite win the World Series was 2010 when the Giants did it. The Orioles and the A’s have had fairly long droughts in getting to the playoffs or the World Series.

As a kid growing up on the West Coast, born in Oakland and being a Navy brat I have a natural tendency to support West Coast teams in the post season, unless they are the Evil Dodgers, who I hate to say I have cheered for in the World Series when they played the Yankees, may God have mercy on me, but it was against the Yankees so I’m sure there is some measure of grace.

My dad was a big National League fan and he became a die hard Giants fan a bit before I was born as the Giants moved to San Francisco about the same time he was transferred to Naval Air Station Alameda. I remember seeing the Giants in Candlestick as a kid, seeing Mays, McCovey and Bobby Bonds play and watching Ed Halicki throw his no-hitter there in 1975. We also went to a decent number of A’s games including the 1972 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers back in the days of Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, Mutcat Grant, Vida Blue, Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, Campy Campaneris and Reggie Jackson. My dad couldn’t stand A’s owner Charlie Finley but who could not like the mixture of uniforms and the ball girls in hot pants down the foul lines?

So in a sense because of geography I was a default fan of the Giants and Athletics. However my love of the Orioles defied my dad as well as geography. I started liking the Orioles as a kid because I would always see them in the playoffs. Though my dad didn’t like the Orioles he had tremendous respect for their players, especially outfielder Frank Robinson and Third Baseman Brooks Robinson. I could name the Orioles starting rotation and liked the way that Manager Earl Weaver argued with the umpires. In retrospect my dad kind of reminded me of the scrappy Weaver. My dad always emphasized fundamentals, pitching and working hard.

The Orioles also had the a minor league affiliation with the Stockton Ports back in the 1960s and early 1970s. When my dad was transferred to Alameda for his final assignment on the Aircraft Carrier USS Hancock he moved us to Stockton because we had a great aunt there.  So with the Ports playing at Billy Herbert Field about a mile from our house and a few blocks from where I played Little League ball I was at the stadium a lot including a hat giveaway where the team gave out black Orioles caps with the classic Cartoon Bird. In 1972 the Orioles left and the Angels took the team but from that time I remained an Orioles fan.

That love for the Orioles has increased over the past decade as I have gotten to know the team, organization and players through their minor league affiliates the AAA Norfolk Tides and High Single A Frederick Keys.

I want all of my teams to advance. As I write this the Giants lost their first game against the Reds last night while the A’s have went down 2-0 against the Tigers thanks to great Tigers pitching and critical errors. The Orioles open tonight against the Yankees.

No matter who wins it has been a great season for my teams. The Giants fought a lot of adversity to win the NL West, the A’s pulled off one of the most amazing runs seen in baseball to overtake the highly favored Texas Rangers in the final game of the season and Buck Showalter’s never say die Orioles have surprised the experts, but not me for the entire year.

My picks to win the Division series are the Tigers, the Giants, the Cardinals and the Orioles. Yesterday I would have picked the A’s but as much as I like them the chances of taking three in a row against the Tigers pitching are a lot lower than sweeping the Rangers. However, if there is a team that can come back from a 0-2 deficit it is the A’s. I think that the Giants take the Reds despite last night’s loss, and I think that the experience of the Cardinals will give them the edge over the Nationals, but think that the Nats could win the series. Finally I think that the Orioles are going to take the Yankees. They have played them even all year and despite all the power of the Yankees I think there is something about this Orioles team that is going to take them deep into the playoffs.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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