By Fr. Don Braukmann/St. Philip, Bemidji & St. Charles, Pennington
The best time of the year, yes, Easter and springtime, but in the world of leisure, opening day of the baseball season is upon us! Scripture reminds us God’s favorite sport is baseball. The first three words of the Bible, in the book of Genesis are “In the big inning!” (Genesis 1:1)
I grew up a Twins fan with many memories of working in the field, especially baling hay with dad, listening to the blare of the radio as the play by play of the game drowned out the roar of the tractor and baler!
I was five when the Twins made it to their first World Series, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games in 1965.
For several years we would pack up and head to the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn., on my birthday in August. More than once I watched the great Harmon Killebrew smash a home run into the seats. It didn’t get better than that as a kid!
In 1987 I was a priest at St. Joseph’s in Moorhead and had to preside at the Saturday night Mass as game six was taking place in Minneapolis. I will confess I had someone check the score during Communion so I could announce Kent Hrbek’s mighty grand slam sending the series to a seventh game!
In 1991 I was actually at the second game of the series against the Atlanta Braves. What a great experience as Greg Gagne hit a home run and Kent Hrbek “accidentally” pulled a guy off first base who was then called out and saved an inning!
Last year I was at opening day as the Twins beat the Royals to start a season where they made the playoffs.
So many great memories shared with my Dad and siblings. In good years and not so good years it was a pastime we all appreciated.
Yet, the glow of baseball has been tainted a bit. From the cost of bringing a family of four to a game rising to anywhere from $200-$400 (with seats, parking, refreshments, souvenirs) to the salaries made by the players, enjoying America’s pastime and God’s favorite sport isn’t so easy.
Here in Bemidji, we have homeless wandering the streets and those in desperate need of addiction treatment falling into snowbanks and freezing to death. Yet players in a “game” are being paid incredible amounts of money along with owners laughing all the way to the bank.
In the coming year, Mike Trout, a center fielder for the Los Angeles Angels will be making $210,000 a game. Yes, in a single game! That is $23,300 an inning!
Clayton Kershaw, a pitcher for the cross-town rival, Los Angeles Dodgers will be making just over $1,000,000 a game! Yup! At most, he will pitch in 32 games. Let’s say he averages 100 pitches a game (some will be more, some less), that is simple math … $10,000 for each pitch he throws!
Opening day popcorn at Target Field, home of the Twins, was $14 for a large bucket. A burger and fries were $13. A slice of pizza was $6 as was a bottle of water, beer was $9.
Other sports have their issues as well but one cannot help but ask, “What is happening?”
This last year some football players took a knee during the national anthem. All I could think of were the men and women in uniform who defend our nation everyday so those players could play a game and make what they make.
The “it’s all about me” attitude slinking into our culture from all sides is chewing away at our dignity and the poor get poorer while the rich get richer, it seems.
The “it’s all about me” view of life has saturated our politics from the oval office to the newest person serving in a state house of representatives in the smallest state of the union. So much hate, bullying and name calling, all in the desperate grab for power.
Our families and our kids pay the ultimate price in this philosophy of life. Consequences are someone else’s fault and are considered the price of “freedom.” The word “compassion” has been cut from our vocabulary.
In the end, it is hard to watch professional baseball go the way of the other sports. Baseball is God’s sport, no doubt! It involves “sacrifice” (fly ball and bunt). There is help for those in trouble with the “reliever” coming in from the bullpen. The game is played on a precious jewel, a “diamond.” And, greatest of all, the goal of every baseball game ever played is the goal we all share when it comes to life … “to get HOME!”