There was no joy in the archdiocese as the priests from the Archdiocese of Kansas city in Kansas fell to the priests of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in the first Pitching for Priests softball game
by Todd Habiger
If anyone thought that the inaugural softball game between the priests of two Kansas City dioceses was going to be anything but a bad blood affair, those thoughts went out the window in the fifth inning when Bishop Robert Finn ordered his pitcher to throw a brushback pitch at Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
Of course, this being slow pitch softball, the archbishop had time to get out of the way — and eat a hot dog, make a few phone calls and sign some autographs — before the pitch hit him. OK, so maybe it wasn’t that slow. Nevertheless, the strategy worked, and the archbishop popped up to the catcher on the next pitch.
“I was still quaking from when he dusted me off,” the archbishop deadpanned after the game.
Actually, there was no bad blood between the two teams as they both enjoyed the camaraderie and competition in a close, hard-fought game. In the end, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph triumphed over the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas by a score of 27-25 in six innings. The game was sponsored by Catholic Radio Network 1090 AM and was broadcast live. It raised money for, and promoted, vocations in both dioceses.
“I thought the game was a great success,” said Msgr. Michael Mullen, coach for the archdiocesan team. “The crowd was enthusiastic, and the priests had a really good time.”
The 77-year-old priest — who came to bat each time with a crowd chant of “Mon-Seen-Your . . . Mon-Seen-Your” — did his best to keep his team in the game, ripping off a couple of base hits (with a little help from a pinch runner).
The rules of the game were simple: Each team sent up 10 batters each inning. And there were no strikeouts or walks, which made for an offensive explosion, much to the delight of the crowd of more than 2,400 at Community America Ballpark in Kansas City, Kansas.
“It was awesome how many people showed up,” said Father Andrew Strobl, archdiocesan director of evangelization. “That really felt great as a priest to know that we had that much support. They were really into the game. It was great to see that they were really engaged and really supportive. That’s awesome to feel.”
For the priests, the game was a chance to loosen up their collars, so to speak, and have some fun with their fellow priests.
“I don’t get to see a lot of these guys,” said Father Quentin Schmitz, associate pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee. “I went to seminary with many of them but haven’t seen a lot of them over the past year. It was great to be able to get out here and be with these guys, and the Kansas City-St. Joe priests as well.”
Despite the feel-good nature of the game, the priests went out and played hard. The game featured hard slides, diving catches, collisions at home and a few pulled hamstrings.
“I was so excited to see so many priests and to see how much fun they were having and how much they got into it,” said Father Scott Wallisch, archdiocesan vocation director. “Everyone came out and played hard. It made for a good, exciting and close game.”
The game started slowly for the archdiocesan team as members could only muster two runs in the first inning to KC-St. Joe’s four. But after that, the team hit its stride, knotting it up at seven in the second inning before taking a 12-10 lead in the third.
In the fifth inning, down by a few runs, the archdiocese brought in a ringer — former major leaguer Diego Segui — to pinch hit. But Segui, who made his name as a pitcher, not a hitter, grounded out. Despite the setback, the archdiocese managed to fight its way back to tie the game at 21-21 at the end of the fifth.
Unfortunately, Kansas City-St. Joseph exploded for six runs in the top of the sixth, while the archdiocese could manage only four. At the end of the inning, the scheduled seven-inning game was called because of darkness, with KC-St. Joe ahead.
“I would have liked to have had one more inning to have a chance to tie or take the lead,” said a disappointed Father Wallisch.
The evening ended with the presentation of a traveling trophy to Bishop Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph . . . that archdiocesan ballplayers hope will be traveling west this time next year.