by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — As director of the archdiocesan vocations office, Father Scott Wallisch is always happy to talk about vocations.
Except during free throws.
Father Wallisch will be playing guard on this year’s team of basketball- playing priests from the archdiocese; the Running Revs are entering their 23rd season.
The priests will be playing against their perennial opponents, the Serra All-Stars, teams comprised of young hoopsters from area Catholic schools.
The games are sponsored by the archdiocesan vocations office, the Serra Club of Topeka, and the Serra Clubs of Johnson County and Kansas City, Kansas.
The Revs and the Serra Club All-Stars will meet for two games. The first will be held March 5 at 7 p.m. at Bishop Miege High School, 5041 Reinhardt Dr. in Roeland Park. The second will be held on April 23 at 7 p.m. at Hayden High School, 401 Gage Blvd., Topeka.
While there are usually about 10 priests on the Revs’ bench, there are actually two All-Stars teams.
The Kansas City area team is coached by Bill Maloney, and the Topeka area team is coached by Louis Funk. Both teams are comprised of 8th- graders from Catholic schools and parishes, and two players from each Catholic high school.
“[Games] the last few years have been very competitive,” said Father Wallisch. “I think we’ve only lost once in Kansas City, but in Topeka we’ve lost more.
“In Kansas City,” he admitted, “the referees give [the Revs] a little bit of help. But in Topeka, the refs call the game straight up — so the better team wins there.”
The All-Stars take it all in stride, even when the Kansas City area refs make questionable calls and dubious concessions that blatantly favor the Revs. They know it’s all for a good cause.
Why the games?
“The purpose of the Running Revs games are to give our priests an opportunity to play a sport they enjoy, give the [boys] a chance to have some fun with their priests playing basketball and give the spectators a chance to see the priests doing something out of the ordinary,” said Father Wallisch.
“Hopefully [some of the boys] will think about God’s plan for them,” he continued. “Maybe they’ll realize that, if they are called to be a priest, they can still have fun doing the things they love to do.”
The game is also a bit of a fundraiser by the Serra Clubs to support seminarians. There is no admission charge, but spectators are encouraged to donate. There will also be a silent auction. Spectators can make bids before and during the game up through halftime, when the winning bids will be announced.
At the Kansas City area game, the Miege cheerleaders will teach grade school girls a dance. Game announcer Father Andrew Strobl will conduct interviews during halftime and timeouts.
Father Wallisch hopes for really big turnouts for both games. People ought to come to the games, he said, because it’s a great way to support archdiocesan priests and the boys who play against them. Not only that, he said, but it’s a great way have a lot of fun for not much money.