by Sheila Myers
Special to The Leaven
ROELAND PARK — If you like exhibition basketball, you don’t have to wait for the Harlem Globetrotters to visit Kansas City. Come watch the Runnin’ Revs take on the Serra All-Stars March 4 at Bishop Miege High School here.
Though Father Mitchel Zimmerman, archdiocesan vocations director, admits the Revs have a height advantage over the eighth-grade boys on the Serra All-Stars team, this is no rout.
“They show us no mercy,” said Father Zimmerman. “The kids play hard. They are really good and have great basketball skills.”
Despite the All-Stars full-court press, however, the Revs manage to win every year — by just a few points.
That could be because Dave Staudenmyer, a longtime CYO official who referees the game, bends the rules in favor of the Revs, like giving the Revs extra free-throw shots until they make the basket.
If you’re not a stickler for play-by-the-book basketball, then this family- friendly event is a crowd-pleaser.
CYO executive director Peter Piscitello said Staudenmyer knows how to work the audience, with the Miege band and cheerleaders out front. And the announcing skills of Father Andrew Strobl, associate pastor of Prince of Peace and chaplain at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, rival those of Dick Vitale.
The annual event also raises money for the seminarians; items are auctioned off and freewill donations are solicited at halftime. This year’s auction prizes include the always-popular KU and K-State sports memorabilia and a spot at Camp Tekakwitha, plus a new item that Piscitello hopes will generate some high bids: a spot at a Catholic baseball camp run by former Royals first-baseman Mike Sweeney.
The baseball camp, for boys 8 to 15, is a $300 value and provides participants a chance to work with major league baseball players, including Sweeney.
The basketball game, which draws Serra Club members, families and friends of the players, and parishioners cheering for their favorite priest is designed to promote vocations to the priesthood.
“The main obstacle with vocations is to present priests as real persons in the hearts and minds of young people,” said Father Zimmerman. “It’s hard for people to become priests themselves if they only see priests behind the altar. So the game lets everyone see that priests are pretty cool.”
Not to mention good athletes, said Father Zimmerman, who has played with the Runnin’ Revs since he was ordained nine years ago.
“At 38, I’m thinking about retirement from the Revs,” he said. “But some priests play well into their 50s, so I may have another 10 years.”
About eight to 10 priests and seminarians play for the Revs. The All-Stars are comprised of two players from each Johnson and Wyandotte County parish.
“Some parishes send their best player; others send the nicest,” said Bill Maloney, one of the event coordinators. “It’s up to the parish.”
The Revs also play the All-Stars of Topeka later in the “season” — this year at Hayden High School at 7 p.m. on April 22.