Before running onto the baseball field, children from across
the diocese tied their cleats, stretched their muscles and
made the Sign of the Cross during a one-day Catholic Baseball
Camp at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax July 24.
Hosted by Catholic Athletes for Christ, the event provided
kids between the ages of 8 and 16 with
an opportunity to deepen their faith while receiving quality
sport instruction from current and former major league
baseball players, including Tom Carroll, Jim Hannan and Fred
Craig Stammen, a relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals,
said he felt honored to be able to share the knowledge he
gained over the course of his career and promote his Catholic
faith through the event.
Throughout the day, participants attended Mass, listened to
presentations on the Catholic faith and practiced pitching,
base running and hitting under the guidance of Paul VI
baseball coaches and members of the DC Padres, a baseball
team of local priests and seminarians who compete against
high school teams and promote vocations.
Newly ordained Father Kevin Dansereau enjoyed being able to
combine his passion for baseball with opportunities for faith
formation in the city where his love for baseball began.
"I grew up playing baseball in Fairfax, and I feel so blessed
to be able to come back to help these kids practice my
favorite sport and grow in their love for God," said Father
Dansereau. "This camp combines both things that have been
instrumental in my life. It's really amazing to be a part of
Ray McKenna, president of Catholic Athletes for Christ and a
parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria, said
he hoped to show diocesan youths that faith and baseball "are
opposite sides of the same coin" during the first Catholic
baseball camp in the Washington area.
"If properly understood, faith and baseball have the capacity
to improve the practice of one another," said McKenna. "By
giving these kids the chance to practice their faith while
practicing their sport, we are helping them develop in two
major aspects of their lives, and hopefully their testimony
will help others down the line. Today, they are seeing the
real witness of MLB players who love and live their faith.
Tomorrow, they could be doing the same."
McKenna said he hopes the event will eventually evolve into a
three-day camp. Enthusiasm was high at the inaugural program.
"This camp is really fun, and it taught me a lot about
baseball," said William Emerson, 9. "Playing with Craig
Stammen was a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
When asked how he felt about a camp that combines faith and
baseball, Emerson said, "Those two things go really well
together. It's fun when you can mix them."
Warren Buckley, 10, explained why he felt the camp was a
"Camp is a great opportunity to meet new friends and to learn
from famous players," he said. "It brings together people who
have the same faith, and that makes everything better."
Vincenzo Fiorino, 7, agreed.
"It's a great time out here learning and having fun," said
Fiorino. "It's fun to be going to church, especially on a day
when I'm playing baseball."
While the camp did not promise to make youths into future
major league players, Michael Hatfield, 14, demonstrated that
it did succeed in teaching participants valuable lessons.
"I learned a lot today, but the most important things I
learned will help me off of the field," he said. "You just
have to have trust and faith in God and keep trying hard and
everything will work out."
Willis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.