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First Pitches and Last Pitches: The Importance of President Trump’s Failure to Show on Opening Day

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

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.” This is something about the American character that President Donald Trump does not seem to understand, these are not qualities that he shares. In a rare move for a new President, Trump refused an invitation to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Washington National’s Opening Day celebration.

To some people that may seem like a trivial thing, but to me it is yet another indicator of the President’s lack of respect for his office, the institutions of our country, and our greatest traditions. Baseball has always provided a healing balm for our country during various crises and emergencies. During World War Two Franklin Roosevelt said to critics who thought baseball should be shut down for the duration of the war, “I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going.” 

Baseball is important and a good number of our Presidents understood this whether you agreed with their politics or not. President George W. Bush made a couple of observations that President Trump obviously has no understanding about. First there were the personal virtues of the baseball legends, virtues that should inform and inspire anyone, especially a President of the United States. Bush noted:

“Baseball isn’t just the stats. As much as anything else, baseball is the style of Willie Mays, or the determination of Hank Aaron, or the endurance of a Mickey Mantle, the discipline of Carl Yastrzemski, the drive of Eddie Mathews, the reliability of a (Al) Kaline or a (Joe) Morgan, the grace of a (Joe) DiMaggio, the kindness of a Harmon Killebrew, and the class of Stan Musial, the courage of a Jackie Robinson, or the heroism of Lou Gehrig. My hope for the game is that these qualities will never be lost.”

But then there are the practical leadership, management, and political aspects of managing a baseball team that relate directly to anyone in a leadership position. Bush noted: “The most important qualities for a (baseball) manager are to plan for the season and foster a team spirit that encourages hard work and the desire to win. A good president must set clear goals, recruit the best, build a spirit of teamwork, and be willing to share credit and take the blame.”

After the 9-11 attacks President Bush went to Yankee Stadium to throw out the first pitch during Game Three of the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks just a few miles from Ground Zero. Despite the fears and warnings of the Secret Service, Bush refused to put on a bulletproof vest, and when he got to the mound he recalled:

“The gravity of the moment never really hit me until the first step coming out of that dugout,” Bush said. “I remembering the noise and it was deafening. I remember looking around the stadium, this giant crowd. Standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium was by far the most nervous moment of my presidency.

Bush understood that this was much more than a game, it was a national symbol, it was something that had to be done where it was done. Billy Crystal recalled “This is a moment. Your politics go away. Here’s the president of the United States, handed this awful baton to run with and he stood up and basically said f— you.” For those watching all over the country and the world it was an electric moment. One can criticize President Bush for many things but not this, that pitch helped the country begin to heal more than any military strike, more than any speech, because it reached back to the virtues of the game that are so enmeshed with the character and the ideals of America.

But since President Trump can’t even show up for the first pitch on opening day, I doubt if he has the capacity to ever inspire anyone in this country to higher ideals and higher. He seems to me more like more like a unscrupulous baseball owner more interested in parting out the team and destroying the franchise to make a short term profit all the while building a garish new stadium to satisfy his need with other people’s money, kind of like the late Margaret Whitton who played the owner of the Cleveland Indians in Major League.

Sadly, the President is not only is his missing and dissing the greatest of American institutions, he his missing out the one game that can actually teach him about politics, as Richard Nixon well understood. You see, Trump’s basic inattention and laziness, his inability to stay focused will destroy his presidency. Nixon said that Trump should heed: “I never leave a game before the last pitch, because in baseball, as in life and especially politics, you never know what will happen.”

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Opening Day 2016

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

The long and painful winter is now officially over and yesterday was opening day. Humphrey Bogart said, “That’s baseball, and it’s my game. Y’ know, you take your worries to the game, and you leave ’em there…”

I totally agree with that, sadly I don’t live in a major league city and I’ll be out of town when our Triple-A Baltimore Orioles affiliate opens its season on Thursday, but even so I am thrilled that baseball is back.

Amid all the craziness of the world, our totally insane political scene in the United States, the threats of war, terrorism, continued problems in the Middle East, the Korea Peninsula, not to mention the instability in the European Union which could affect a lot of political and economic issues, baseball is a calming influence in my life. I agree with Sharon Olds who wrote nearly thirty years ago, “Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.”

Today I am wearing my San Francisco Giant’s hat, and an autographed replica Giants road jersey with the number 36 on it. The number belongs to Hall of Fame Pitcher Gaylord Perry, and it is signed by him. I grew up with the Giants as a kid, and Perry is interesting because not only is he in the Hall of Fame, but he admitted cheating, throwing the “spit ball” after it, and other forms of doctoring the baseball were banned. Since I teach ethics I love the irony, but then as they say, “those that can’t do, teach.”

As far as opening day, my two favorite teams, the Giants and the Baltimore Orioles both won. A good day all in all. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Groundhog Day 2013! Phil Doesn’t See his Shadow

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“This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. What a hype. Groundhog Day used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out, and they used to eat it. You’re hypocrites, all of you!” Phil Conners (Bill Murray) in Groundhog Day

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Well it looks like we will have an early spring according to the rodent name Phil in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania, so even the rodent admits that Global Warming is a fact. Well maybe not, what does a Groundhog know about that? When did he go to science class and why are thousands of people waiting in the cold for his prediction? The good thing is, if the rat is right then Spring Training will be very nice, and maybe opening day will be free of winter weather.

I don’t know, but I do love the movie Groundhog Day. I have to admit there have been times in my life that I have felt that I was living it. When Bill Murray’s character Phil Conners asks “What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?” I can say that there were times in my life that was exactly how I felt. I imagine that a lot of people, including some that read my articles that sometimes feel the same way.

I think that the movie is a great metaphor for life in our country in the instant news and media world that is modern America. Politics, economics, foreign policy, scandals, mass murders… You name it and it seems like we just saw it, like Yogi Berra said it is like “Deja Vu all over again.”

When we lived in Pennsylvania we had groundhogs all over the place, and since we lived on a military base most were undisturbed. Our first dog, a Wire Hair Dachshund named Frieda used to look at them like they were long lost cousins, but I digress… Groundhogs are fascinating rodents, but I don’t know how much credence that I give to their weather prediction ability, especially, like most weather forecasters and prophets they tend to disagree with each other more often than not.

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So happy Groundhog Day to you, may it be a day of new beginnings regardless of how long the winter continues.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Look Back at 2012: The Year that Was and Still Can Be if You Have Access to Time Travel

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“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
~T.S. Eliot~

Well my friends it is my time to look back at 2012, the year that should have been the end of the world had the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. However the Mayans couldn’t see that possibility and life goes on. With that in mind I decided to look back at the more that 300 articles that I have written since the the babe wrapped in Champagne soaked clothes and lying in Times Square gutter belched out his first words… “Is this live?” 

If we lived in the Star Trek World things could be different. We could find an alternate universe, find a time portal at the City on the Edge of Forever or if need be whip the Enterprise around the Sun to throw us back in time.

However we don’t have that ability yet and the year of our discontent began in January. It was a year filled with political carnage, war, man made and natural disasters including the BCS Championship, the athletic drama of human competition, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Much of the year was consumed by the American 2012 General Elections and Presidential primaries and campaigns. It was a year where we thought things might be different but sages like me looking back on the wisdom inscribed in my Bloom County Comic Strip Collection knew was not.

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Back to the Future in Iowa: A Bloom County Redux

It was not just politics as usual it was also media as usual something again that I predicted was the case by looking back at history.

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Doing the Sidestep: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and American Politics and Media

But as the campaign season snaked its eerie course through the hills, dales, bayous and valleys of our fair fruited plains the rest of the world experienced joy and pain, triumph and tragedy.

It began in this country as all things do when the University of Alabama, a fully accredited school of higher learning won the BCS College Football Championship game, something that the University of Phoenix will never do.

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Alabama wins the Boring Pseudo-National Championship Game…aka the BCS BS Championship Game

Not to be outdone the Italian Merchant Marine got into the act when Captain Francesco Schettino while joy riding in hie massive 115,000 ton Cruise Ship, the Costa Concordia  managed to hit a rock and sink the ship.

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Sinking the Costa Concordia: A Lesson in Hubris and Cowardice

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In February we saw the renewal of of love affair with television commercials as the Super Bowl XLVI: Commercials, Madonna and a Football Game as Madonna lip synced between the halves as the New York Football Giants defeated the New England non-Tea Party Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, pronounced “Exlivy” in the original Latin.

Politics continued in March with the indecisive “Super Tuesday” Primaries:

Super Tuesday Agony: Indecisive, Inconclusive and a Portent of Things to Come

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But thankfully for all baseball returned in April bringing some sense of normalcy back to a world gone mad. Opening day brought me back to an even keel and the fact that it coincided with Holy Week made it more special to me. Opening Day and Holy Week and being able to attend a home opener was nice. A Home Opener and thoughts on Rick, Ozzie and George

But even in the midst of this there was perfection, in fact perfection done several times in Major League Baseball one of those being when Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants pitched a perfect game on June 13th.

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The Mark of Cain: Matt Cain Pitches 22nd Perfect Game in MLB Historyand Johann Santana did the same for the otherwise hapless New York Mets 8020 Games and Finally….a Miracle for the Mets: Johan Santana Pitches First No-No in Mets Historyand “King Felix” pitched his first perfect game for the Mariners The Perfect King: Felix Hernandez Pitches Third Perfect Game of 2012while Phil Humber of the Tigers threw a perfect game against the Mariners Perfect! Phillip Humber Joins Legends as He Pitches Perfect Game against Mariners

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Baseball produced other surprises this year but probably none bigger than that of the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles, underdog and underfunded teams that surprised everyone with their playoff runs and playoff appearances. September Surprises: O’s and A’s Shake up the American League

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The Major League Baseball playoffs were filled with amazing comeback stories but none more than that of the San Francisco Giants who played on the brink of elimination in both the NLDS ( Giants Sweep Red’s in the River City: On to NLCS ) and NLCS ( Raining on a Parade: Giants Make Giant Comeback to Win National League Pennant ) before sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. SWEEP! GIANTS WIN SERIES!

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But around the world and away from the rich green baseball diamonds there were other events. In April Kim Jong Un #1 the new dictator for life in North Korea shot a rocket in the air, and where it landed he knew not where Missile Impotence: Kim Jong Un’s Rocket Launch goes Splat even as an American preacher turned fake historian became the star of the Religious Right Faux Fact Factory: The Twisted World of Fake “Historian” and “Hero of the Faith” David Barton  Not to be outdone a Roman Catholic Bishop made his own bad history comparisons Bishop Jenky’s Obama and Hitler, Stalin, Bismarck and Clemenceau Comparison: Bad History, Bad Theology and Bad Politics

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Meanwhile in the background Europe and the European Union faced their own problems. Economic and political crisis engulfed the continent. Europe on the Edge: France and Greece Point to Dangerous Times Ahead

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The Middle East was not to be left behind in the the political tumult. Syria continued its post-Arab Spring plunge into the abyss of full out civil war. Fear and Loathing in Damascus eventually bringing the deployment of NATO Patriot Missiles in Turkey. NATO Patriots to Turkey as Syria Teeters on the AbyssIn the broader Middle East War threatened on almost every front The Gathering Storm: Shades of 1914 as War Threatens in the Middle East and the Arab Spring heated up again Arab Spring Fever: The Revolution Begins Anew in Egypt as Syria Begins to Melt Down

In June the United States saw something akin to what our European cousins were going through when my home town, Stockton California declared Bankruptcy. When City Dreams Become Nightmares: Stockton California to Declare Bankruptcy

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But Britain was able to celebrate as Queen Elizabeth marked her 75th year on the throne in June  The Diamond Jubilee: All Glory is Fleeting and hosting the XXX Olympic Summer Games in London in July and August

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British Humor: Bond, Bean, Poppins and The Queen Kick Off XXX Games , Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” Goodbye London: XXX Olympics End on Musical Note

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After a bitterly contested primary campaign Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost the General Election to President Obama. Obama Wins….Now the Real Work of Healing the Wounds Must Begin However that healing didn’t begin and as of today the nation stands at the brink of political and economic crisis that could harm everyone in this country and sink the world economy. Fiscal Cliff Notes: There are Always Results

Then there was the senseless violence of massed murders, some obviously motivated by some kind of insanity while others simply due to hatred of people different.

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The Hatred of “the Other”: White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Politics and the Oak Creek Massacre

Man of Murderous Mystery: James Egan Holmes and the Aurora Dark Knight Massacre

The worst of these was just a couple of weeks ago in Newtown Connecticut A Cry in Newtown: Anguish after a Massacre

The War in Afghanistan dragged on while no politicians really addressed the subject even though the toll in American lives passed the 2000 mark and casualties at the hands of our Afghan allies rose to unthinkable levels. Likewise the crisis in the rise of suicides among active duty and reserve troops as well as Veterans continued unabated.

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The Afghanistan Quagmire and the Escalation of “Green on Blue” Attacks

Why Aren’t Any Politicians Talking About the War and Why don’t Voters Care?

Padre Steve Remembers 9-11 and the Forgotten War

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Natural disasters were not absent from the news this year, the biggest as far as the news went was Hurricane Sandy which struck the week before the US Presidential Election and devastated large parts of New Jersey, New York, the Mid-Atlantic and New England. A Massive and Deadly “Freak” Storm: Sandy Hits the USA while in the forgotten country of Bangladesh a fire at a clothing factory claimed over 100 lives A Juxtaposition of Contradictions: Thanksgiving, Black Friday and the Bangladesh Clothing Factory Fire

There were deaths of noted people this year:

Disgraced former Penn State College Football Coach and legend Joe Paterno died in January barely 2 months after his final game.

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The Death of a Tarnished Legend: Joe Paterno dead at 85

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Singing great Whitney Houston died of what appeared to be an accidental overdose One Moment in Time: Rest in Peace Whitney Houston 1963-2012 

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Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon passed away in August One Giant Loss for Mankind: Neil Armstrong Dead at 82

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1972 Democratic Presidential nominee, war hero and Senator George McGovern died in October A Loss for the Country and the World: A War Hero and Prophet of Peace George McGovern Dead at 90

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Iconic General H Norman Schwarzkopf, victor of the First Gulf War died just this week The Loss of an Icon: General Norman Schwarzkopf dies at 79 

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Of course much more happened over the course of 2012 including the end of the world that didn’t happen The Failed Mayan End of the World Prediction and the Chicago Cubs 

There are other things that I might have or should have written about but looking back over the past year if I was a full time writer. However I don’t think that I did too bad for being just one person who has a day job and who is maintaining two residences in different states. Besides as much as I want I still don’t have access to Warp Drive, transporter beams or time travel.

So I write today hoping for a good end to 2012, a better 2013 and peace on earth.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A Home Opener and thoughts on Rick, Ozzie and George

“Baseball is a harbor, a seclusion from failure that really matters, a playful utopia in which virtuosity can be savored to the third decimal place of a batting average.”  ~Mark Kramer

Last night I went to see the home opener of the Norfolk Tides as has been my tradition since 2004.  It was a beautiful night for a ball game and my friend Dennis was gracious to invite me to sit with him in his season ticket section. It was a nice night and good company with a fellow veteran. There is camaraderie among veterans and others who have served in harm’s way, a camaraderie that recognizes reality in a way that most of the rest of society does not. I think that it a testament to the different worlds that the military and those that serve with us in harm’s way and the rest of society live in.

There is something about the ball park that does me good and helps bring a certain peace to my soul.  It has been this way more than ever since I returned from Iraq. While I can relax wonderfully with a ball game on television or radio there is nothing like being less than 50 feet from the playing field and taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the ballpark.  I know others that find the same peace in  this setting a sense of safety and normalcy that we don’t find many other places.

The ball park is still one of the few places that I don’t find crowds of people intimidating or that send me into a state of hyper-vigilance, that is reserved for malls, Wal-Mart and other big retail venues as well as big churches.  I guess that is part of what makes going to the ball park so refreshing, I feel safe there.  But like all things ball games must end and we have to re-enter the “real” world.

But venturing back to the real world today I caught some news on the radio as I switched between ESPN regular news outlets while driving back to North Carolina.

First up was the news of Rick Santorum, the un-Mormon Anti-Mitt from the Republican Presidential primary campaign.  His campaign had struggled during the past few weeks following his Southern sweep.  At the beginning of the primary season he was probably considered the most likely to be one of the first out. But his worked hard and was tenacious taking the fight to Romney. Had other conservatives like Newt Gingrich left the race Santorum might have won more primaries and really made Romney’s life a living hell. However Santorum did not have the campaign organization or financial wherewithal to withstand Romney’s negative campaign ad carpet bombing blitz.  He also probably lost some support by getting too deep into the contraception debate and away from the compelling blue collar story of his family.  I found it interesting that he did not utter Romney’s name during his speech and wonder what this says about the depth of support that his more Evangelical Christian Social Conservative supporters will give Romney in the fall. My guess is that they are not thrilled with Romney and will likely do little or nothing to help him so Santorum or another like him can take the nomination in 2016 and not have to face an incumbent President.

Then there was Ozzie Guillen being suspended for his really stupid comment that “he loved Fidel Castro.” Not a good thing when you are the Manager of the Miami Marlins and call Little Havana your home.  It was as stupid as if you were the non-Jewish manager of a major Soccer team in Tel Aviv Israel and said the you just loved Hitler. Not smart. Now Ozzie who is known for his colorful off the cuff comments is having to try to make right with a Cuban community which is central to the life of South Florida many of whom are a generation or less removed from Castro’s persecution of political or other opponents. I know a lot of Cubans who have fled or been driven out of their homeland. I have been to the Northeast Gate at Guantanamo Bay which is kind of like the old Berlin Wall.  Now I like Ozzie and I think that he had the self awareness to realize that he screwed up royally and that his contrition is probably genuine. That being said he is going to have some rough times in Miami and in the end he better turn out a winner and find a way to become linked to an anti-Castro plot while he is doing so.

Finally the lawyers that were representing, advising or just helping George Zimmerman the man who killed a teenager named Trayvon Martin a month and a half ago quit. They held a nationally televised news conference to say that they have lost contact with Zimmerman, alluded that Zimmerman is no longer in Florida and that Zimmerman had done a number of things including talking to the Special Prosecutor office and Fox News host Sean Hannity about the case without counsel. This brought them to drop him as a client. Meanwhile the Special Prosecutor announced that she is going make a statement with more information regarding the case within the next 72 hours. My guess is that this will not be good news for Zimmerman. The only thing I can say about this is that Zimmerman must be stupid to disregard to counsel of his legal advisors. Who knows, maybe Zimmerman is on his way to Cuba?

Anyway, tonight is baseball on the MLB Channel and on my laptop with Molly my faithful dog at my side here at the Island Hermitage.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Opening Day and Holy Week

“To connect faith and the national pastime is not to argue that baseball is something more than a game; it is to affirm that baseball is a game.” Christopher H. Evans and William R. Herzog II, The Faith of 50 Million

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

We are in the middle of Holy Week and coincidently it is also Opening Day in Baseball. I know that Opening Day this year actually took place last week between the A’s and Mariners in Tokyo but it really didn’t feel like Opening Day because of how inconvenient it was to try to watch it and because after the teams played their two game series they came back to the States and resumed Spring Training games.

However tonight it was Opening Day in the Continental United States or as we refer to it in the military as CONUS.  It was relaxing to watch Baseball Tonight followed by the St. Louis Cardinals game against the Miami Marlins. The Cardinals won that game by a score of 4-1 and starting pitcher Kyle Loshe took a no-hitter into the 7th inning to spoil the opening of the new Miami ball park.

There is something natural about baseball season beginning during Holy Week, it doesn’t always happen but it does often enough to not be an aberration of nature. Baseball though a game is a part of American life and faith is somehow connected to it and connecting the two is natural to the baseball fan and the person of faith. How can anyone forget the final scene in The Babe Ruth Story where the boy who the Babe had hit two home runs for when he was expected to die came to the Babe and gives Ruth a Miraculous Medal as he was being wheeled into surgery to operate on the Cancer that would kill him?

Somehow baseball and faith seem to go together more than almost any culture and religion combination.  There is something liturgical and sacramental to the ebb and flow of the baseball season that has a feel much like the liturgical seasons of the Christian faith.

For me baseball is something that helps draw me back to faith. When I say that I am a member of the Church of Baseball I certainly don’t diminish my Christian faith or Jesus because when I was struggling and in the midst of a crisis of faith following my tour in Iraq baseball was a place of refuge that helped me regain a sense of peace and stability that I’m sure helped me to make it through life until faith returned.

This year I will not make a home opener for the first time since 2003 unless I rearrange my schedule to see the Norfolk Tides home opener Monday.  I probably need to do that.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Norfolk Drops Home Opener 5-3 to Bulls

Opening Day 2010 at Harbor Park

The Church of Baseball Harbor Park parish came together this evening for opening day in what should be an exciting season one that I predict that they will do well.  Over 10,000 fans showed up the largest opening day attendance since 1995.  Although the wind was brutal the temperatures were not bad and the expected rain showers held off providing an excellent night for baseball, especially given the fact that this is Hampton Roads where weather in early April can sometimes be a bit sporty.

Chris Tillman took the loss

Chris Tillman got the loss giving up two runs in four innings work but not looking bad. Ross Wolf gave up three in the 5th but settled down and relievers Kam Mikolio and Denis Sarfate shut down the Bulls in the late innings with Sarfate striking out the side with some major league heat in the top of the 8th.  Rhyne Hughes picked up from the Rays in August 2009 scored two runs and Joey Gathright drove in two and stole a base.

Kam Mikolio bearing down on a Bulls batter

Durham pitching held the Tides to 6 hits and the Tides had the bases loaded with no outs in the bottom of the 9th but could only get one run as their rally attempt fell flat. Despite this the team has everything that it needs to have a great season and I think that this talented young team will do great things in 2010. The Tides and Bulls match up tomorrow night at Harbor Park with Tides pitcher Jake Arrieta going up against Bulls pitcher Heath Phillips.

Meanwhile down in Tampa the Orioles picked up their first win of the season edging the Rays 5-4 with Brian Matusz making a strong showing in his first start of 2010.

Until tomorrow,

Padre Steve+

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