It has often been said that many in the United States treat baseball as if it is a religion. Perhaps there may be some truth to that.
After all, hordes of people who don’t necessarily know each other come together for a unified cause whether it be to a local parish or a ballpark (often referred to as cathedrals). Once everyone gathers, there is time for prayer and reflection. At Church, you have the opening hymn and prayers. At a ballpark, every game begins with the National Anthem of the United States (and Canada if the Blue Jays are involved in the game) and a ceremonial first pitch.
While prayer is obviously a major part of the Catholic Mass, there’s no shortage of prayer at a baseball game either, especially if there is a lot on the line in that particular game. Players are often seen signing themselves as they get ready for their at bat. Pitchers often do likewise. How many times have you seen fans with hands folded at a particularly pivotal part of a game?
Catholicism is obviously full of rituals, and if you’ve ever watched batters approach the plate, you know many of them do too. Some adjust batting gloves between every pitch, have different methods of setting their timing or certain motions that the make every time they approach the plate. Pitchers are not immune from it either. When a pitcher is going to start a game, some talk incessantly to run off extra energy. Others won’t say a word to anyone lest they lose their focus.
In baseball as in the Church year, there are seasons. For baseball, there is Spring Training, Regular Season, Post Season and Off Season. In the Catholic Church there are Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Triduum and Easter. Spring Training could be equated with Advent and Lent. Both are a time of waiting and reflecting in anticipation of something better. Hope springs eternal, as they say.
The regular season could be equated with Ordinary Time. We spend this time in our routines. Striving for an ultimate goal, but knowing that is a long race. The Post Season might be equated with Triduum. It is the shortest of the seasons, but it is the most central to the game/faith. Easter could be equated with winning the World Series, although, instead of just one team winning as in baseball, all of us win with in Easter. As we are in the midst of enjoying the 50 days of unbounded Easter joy, we are reminded of the joy of triumph Jesus had over death by his resurrection. You might say we are celebrating a World Series victory that Jesus won to the delight of all of us. Let’s get that ticker tape parade set up!
As mentioned in baseball, only one team wins. There will be 29 teams that come up short. In life, we all come up short at times. Yet, we are able to recover those times when we do stumble. The Sacrament of Reconciliation allows us to make mistakes, but still be brought back to the triumph Jesus won for us on the Cross.
Much like baseball is a team game, our faith requires teamwork. It is of the utmost importance that we realize that our salvation is not just a deal between God and ourselves. If we focus only on the “vertical” relationship with God, we miss out on the call to the “horizontal” relationship that is necessary. We can’t claim to love a God the exists only in our minds, while ignoring the God that exists all around us. It’s important to remember that our own salvation is tied to the salvation of others. Others salvation is also tied to ours. It’s a great responsibility, but that’s how teamwork works in baseball and in our faith. In baseball, one player can’t win a championship. He needs the help of those around him. A pitcher needs a catcher in front of him and a defense behind him. A baserunner needs someone to drive them home. A starter sometimes needs a reliever, etc… The best player can never do it alone.
Next time you are in the line to receive the Eucharist and singing the Communion hymn, try to make sure you don’t slip into singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
By: Pat McEntee