Local Religious life

Kansas priests pull off impressive win in annual Pitching for Priests softball game

With the bases loaded, Father Thomas Maddock, associate pastor of Christ the King Parish in Topeka, gets ahold of a pitch and launches it to deep left field. The end result was an inside-the-park grand slam. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Todd Habiger

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — At the heart of Legends Field here, Father Thomas Maddock turned in a legendary performance for the Kansas priests in the annual Pitching for Priests softball game against their brethren from Missouri.

Father Maddock, the associate pastor at Christ the King Parish in Topeka, was a perfect 4-for-4 on the night. But it was his bases loaded at bat in the third inning that was the stuff of legends.

With Kansas holding on to a 10-6 lead, Father Maddock launched a line drive over the Missouri left fielder and raced around the bases for an inside-the-park grand slam.

“I was just trying to hit a line drive to the right side, but when I saw that pitch, I thought this is going to the left side and just tried to blast it as hard as I could,” he said.

And once he started running, he wasn’t going to stop until he reached home plate.

“I was going,” he said. “I had a feeling that I had enough in me that I would make it.”

The annual Pitching for Priests softball game drew just under 4,000 people — including hundreds of children. All the kids were invited on the field before the game to participate in a fun run. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Behind an offense that scored at least four runs each inning and a tight defense, the Kansas priests cruised to a 29-15 victory in the six-inning game.

Before the game, the parking lot was filled with the smells of grills and the sounds of laughter as many families showed up hours beforehand to tailgate on the beautiful summer evening.

Father Dan Morris, archdiocesan vocations director, who also served as the manager for Team Kansas, said he loved the overall atmosphere.

“It’s very life-giving to get together with the body of Christ in this way and just have a fun evening outside the context of worship and liturgy,” he said. “This is another way to give glory to God.”

Father Dan Morris, archdiocesan vocations director and manager for Team Kansas, positions his outfielders as Kansas City-St. Joseph’s heavy hitters come to bat. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

At the priests’ convocation in Atchison earlier in June, Father Morris got the team together for a few practices to find out where guys were comfortable playing and to work on defense and fundamentals. That preparation showed up in the game.

“We put together a good team this year,” he said. “We have younger guys coming up, which is a sign of a fruitful vocation pipeline.”

Father Scott Wallisch, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee, puts the barrel to the ball and strokes a double to drive in two runs. Father Wallisch was 3-for-4 on the night with four RBIs. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

While the younger priests definitely showed game, it was veteran softballer Father Adam Wilczak that brought the crowd to their feet in the fifth inning. First, his hustle and diving attempt to catch a ball in foul territory earned cheers from the Kansas fans.

A few plays later, those cheers were even louder as Father Wilczak gathered in a loose ball and dove at home plate for the final out of the inning that prevented a big rally for the Missouri priests.

“He better have dove for that ball because he got to the game about five till seven and all of us were wondering if he was going to stand us up,” said Father Morris with a smile. “But he showed up and he showed up in a big way.”

Father Adam Wilczak, pastor of Divine Mercy Parish in Gardner, greets a young fan who showed off her support with a Father Adam “Fat Head.” Father Adam was 3-for-4 on the night and played some excellent defense. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was a larger-than-life presence on the field for Team Kansas. When he wasn’t cheering on his team, he was signing autographs for young fans.

And he showed he still has some lightening in his bat when he went 2-for-2 on the night — and showed some speed on the basepaths.

“It’s good to have young legs,” he said laughing, noting that he used seminarians as his runners.

The archbishop was impressed by the play of Team Kansas.

“Our defense was just a little bit too much for them and our consistent hitting and flashing speed won the game,” he said.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann patiently waits for his pitch from Father Dan Morris. The archbishop was a perfect 2-for-2 at the plate thanks to some young legs. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

The announced attendance for the game was 3,790 and the archbishop was pleased to see so many families in the crowd.

“It’s a great night,” he said. “I think the families had a lot of fun and it’s a great promotion of vocations. It’s a great tradition here in Kansas City.”

Notable performances

• Father Thomas Maddock was 4-for-4 with a double, home run and two singles and drove in five runs to lead the team.

• Father Dan Morris was 3-for-3 with a single, double and a triple. He also added a sacrifice fly and drove in two runs.

• Father Scott Wallisch was 2-for-3 with four RBIs.

• Father Timothy Skoch hit a bases-loaded triple and just missed an inside-the-park grand slam as he was called out on a close play at home.

• All but three of the archdiocese’s 17 players earned at least one hit in the game. Those who didn’t get a hit have their names withheld to protect the innocent.

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About the author

Todd Habiger

Todd has been the production manager for The Leaven since 1995. Under his direction The Leaven has won multiple design awards from the Catholic Press Association. Prior to working at The Leaven, Todd was an award-winning writer for The Catholic Key newspaper in Kansas City, Mo. Todd is married to Lori Wood Habiger, a former Leaven employee herself. They have two children — Paige and Connor, and one dog — Joli.

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