Sundayâ€™s Washington Post carried an excellent story on faith in baseball. Drawing largely on the local team, the Washington Nationals, for illustrations, reporter Laura Blumenfeld does a fine job of depicting the current state of faith in the dugout. What follows is my personal highlight, which also happens to be the lead:
Three hours before the game, in the Washington Nationals' clubhouse, Ryan Church and Matt Cepicky were razzing each other, laughing and dancing around in their shorts.
A sober voice interrupted, "Chapel, 10:45."
Church and Cepicky nodded. Another player burped. Another swallowed a light blue pill. Another swatted his bat at a teammate's bare behind.
"Chapel in thirty minutes," Jon Moeller said, working his way -- locker to locker, broad back to back -- around the room, distributing a leaflet: "What God Has Done For You." Moeller, 36, is the chapel leader for the Nationals baseball team. On Sundays, before they play, they pray.
The story touches on some delicate theological issues but appropriately -- for this story -- the reporter shies away from delving into the details and talking to experts about whether God favors one side or another in a sporting contest. But the color on the subject is fun:
Which raises a theological question. As outfielder Preston Wilson, 31, who also prays during the national anthem, put it: "If the guy on the other team is a better Christian, is the other team going to win?"
Or, put another way: Do the Boston Red Sox, who have the highest chapel attendance in the major leagues, have an unfair advantage?
"I get a ton of people saying, 'Hey, Wayne, you gotta pray harder for the Brewers,'" said Wayne Beilgard, chapel leader for the Milwaukee Brewers. "I tell them, 'God doesn't choose sides in baseball. God is not a Yankees fan.'"
Yet, there is that temptation. One Sunday, during a Nationals game against the San Diego Padres, chapel leader Moeller and his friend Smitley were making the rounds. The game was not going well. Cepicky shattered a bat, and then hit squarely to the first baseman. In the outfield, Church flailed his arms as a ball rocketed over the wall.
"It's not the Lord's day," Moeller mumbled.
With the leaves starting to change, the air feeling crisp, what better timing for a Sunday religion piece tied in with baseball? It's filled with Bible verses and analogies, with only Nationals Manager Frank Robinson and hitting coach Tom McCraw voicing dissent for personal reaons.