For those who prefer to listen, than read, I offer this:
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As a Catholic, it is a big no-no to have any other Gods before me. I get that and I should be clear that I don’t have any. I don’t have any before me, behind me, beside me or any others. So I would then respectfully request you not misinterpret what I am about to write as taking the Lord, His name or His church in vain.
Hell, I love me some Jesus just as much as the next Christian does. I pray and I talk to Him every day. Am I a good Catholic? Mmm. No. No. But, my faith is important to me and it is a big part of my life.
That being said, you can believe me when I tell you there are few places on earth where my spirit will rise to the heavens like it does when I am inside a cathedral that houses the church of baseball.
Someone, I don’t know who, once said “90 feet between bases is the closest man has come to perfection.”
Last Saturday, a church opened its doors to me; a cathedral I’ve longed to visit. Clad in vestments of orange and black, their opponents in gray and navy, there was a congregation of 38,000 strong readying themselves for a religious experience. I grant you there may not have been any laying of the hands, or kumbaya’s, but there was a warm sun and no there was no threat of rain.
The service begins as it usually does, with a hymn and a prayer. In our case the hymn was the Star Spangled Banner, the benediction was a cry from the pulpit behind home plate, letting the the boys know it was time to “Play Ball.”
For communion I had a soft pretzel, a hot dog, a bag of peanuts, four pints of Miller Lite … don’t judge me, I was at a game. And all of this was complimented by the Baltimore faithful singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
Three-plus hours later, and in spite of a 5-4 loss, my heart was singing Hallelujah and Praised be to Jesus … and at the risk of full-blown blasphemy, Praise be to Cal Ripken, Jr. and the house he built too.
For the first time since Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened 25 years ago, I stepped through its gates. Immediately I was impressed. Inside the stadium and out, its cleanliness was eye opening. The concession staff greeted patrons with smiles, even late in the game when they were tired. Lest I forget the kindness of Baltimore baseball fans. Holy cow. One thing was for sure, I was not in the South Bronx.
As a kid, as I am now, I was and am a Yankee fan. But the Orioles have always my “second team.” Quietly, my second team. To explain this would deserve its own blog post at some point. Just not here and now. Nevertheless, it began when I was a kid. It may have been the colors, or it may have been their logo. I will tell you, to this day, The Oriole Bird is my all-time favorite logo in sports.
But win or lose, on this day it didn’t matter. It was spending an afternoon in the sun at Camden Yards, right next to my girl, and a handful of her friends from college, all making for a great day at the ballpark; a great day of baseball.
After I wrote that last line it reminded me of something a friend of mine once told me close to 30 years ago.
“Every day is a great day for baseball, Patrick. It’s just some are better than others.”
Amen, brother. Amen.
CORRECTION: In the audio I mistakenly said 23 years ago … it is 25 years ago.