by Ellie Melero
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann offered what might have sounded like an unusual prayer before a crowd of more than 3,000 here on July 5. But it was sure taken to heart.
“We pray,” he said jokingly, “that Kansas City, Kansas, will win.”
And win it did.
The priests of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, brought the traveling trophy of the Pitching for Priests contest back across the state line after a 14-12 win against the priests of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, tying the series at 3-3.
Father Dan Morris was happy for the win. He took over as the archdiocesan vocation director last year, and this year was his first as coach of the softball team. Father Morris was thrilled his inaugural time coaching resulted in a win.
“It feels great,” he said. “It feels great to be a part of it as the coach, and really just putting the lineup together and seeing who would be good following who, and who would be the best players in the infield and the overall defense.
“I thought they held up really strong.”
The game started out with strong defense from both teams, and at the end of the first inning the score was tied 1-1. Strong hitting from the KCK priests helped them slowly build a lead, and heading into the fifth inning they were ahead 9-6.
The fifth inning was Kansas’ best. With the help of power hitters like Father Morris and speedy seminarian pinch runners, KCK was able to score five runs against Missouri’s three, bringing the score to 14-9.
“I think all of our guys hit really well tonight,” Father Morris said. “That showed through, especially in that fifth inning when we were finally able to put it together.”
Though they tried their hardest, Missouri couldn’t get more than three runs in against Kansas’ defense in the sixth inning, making the final score 14-12.
Father Simon Baker, OSB, was happy for the win, but he was also happy just to have the opportunity to play. He said he was glad the priests from Missouri and Kansas could come together for something like this in support of the seminarians.
“The only thing that divides us really is the state line,” said Father Simon. “So, to have the two dioceses be working together for the sake of building up vocations — it’s just a beautiful experience.”
The event drew fans from both dioceses as well, and the rowdy crowd cheered loudly for each priest as he came up to bat. The serious fans even made shirts and signs to support their own pastors. The money raised will go to support seminarians of both the Kansas and the Missouri dioceses.
The event, which was sponsored by the Catholic Radio Network, was intended not only as a fundraiser, but also a way to raise awareness to all vocations, particularly the priesthood.
“Kids get to see the other side of the priests [at this even],” said Carolyn O’Laughlin, a volunteer from the Catholic Radio Network. “[That] they get to have fun and enjoy life. Not that they don’t enjoy life saying Mass and everything, but this is just a little more lighthearted and fun time.”
Father Morris agreed. He said the priests appreciate the opportunity to let loose a little and have fun, especially those who played sports when they were younger.
But events like Pitching for Priests are also important to encourage young people to follow a religious vocation, he said.
“It puts priests and religious and seminarians in a different light,” said Father Morris, “that I think opens the perspective up to realize that God calls all kinds of men, all kinds of women, to these vocations.
“He could call any one of us.”