When shortstop Fr. Darrick Leier stepped to the plate in the first inning with the bases loaded, the former college athlete knew he had a chance to do something big.
“They were all playing way in, they were trying to feel everyone out to see how they could hit and I knew if I could get a decent one there it would go over their heads… and that’s what happened,” Fr. Leier said.
Fr. Leier’s first inning grand slam was just the start of a big night for the bats of the Denver priests, as they outslugged the Colorado Springs/Pueblo priests 23-12 on Friday, July 15 in the first Colorado Priests Softball Game.
“You know we prayed hard before we showed up tonight…I bet they did too, so it couldn’t have been that,” said left fielder Fr. Mike Rapp with a laugh. “We were swinging for the fences, taking chances, a lot of hustle out there.”
The Denver team scored five runs in each of the first two innings (the max per inning), and when the Springs/Pueblo team made a rally in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Denver priests answered back with five more runs in the sixth inning to put the game out of reach.
“It was a nice break from the parish life and it was good to be with priests and the people of God,” said pitcher Fr. Nick Thompson. The game was played at the Colorado Sky Sox minor league stadium in Colorado Springs with over 700 fans in attendance at the inaugural event.
“They were doing the wave, cheering loud, and we heard some chants back and forth,” said Fr. Rapp.
The game was friendly, but also competitive. There was plenty of scoring, some highlight-reel catches in the field and only a couple of pulled hamstrings.
“I hope that everyone enjoyed seeing their priest in a different atmosphere,” said outfielder Fr. Scott Bailey. “So many people only see their priest at Mass and it is a formal setting, so to see us engaging each other – I hope they saw the human side of us that they sometimes might not get to see.”
The game was put on by the Catholic Radio Network to benefit and promote vocations.
“I think it is helpful for everyone to see the humanity of the priests, just like it is important for us to encounter the humanity of Jesus Christ,” said center fielder Fr. Ryan O’Neill, the Director of Priestly Vocations for the Archdiocese of Denver.
“If Jesus Christ is just this distant deity who is far away but we don’t have a personal relationship with him it is hard to engage your Catholic life,” said Fr. O’Neill. “But if you encounter the humanity of Jesus – he had a family, he wept, he was sad, he was happy, he slept, he ate, he worked – then you realize he is a human you can relate to, and the same thing with priests.”
Fr. O’Neill said that to see a priest playing sports, cheering for a teammate, hitting a home run, striking out and in general just having fun will hopefully make some people look at the priesthood in a new way.
“We don’t just sit around in an office all the time, working on sacramental records,” Fr. O’Neill said. “We like to live life to the fullest and that means having moments of fun and recreation and spending time with each other. So those things are a good opportunity for the world to see our joy, that when we are having fun they may say ‘wow, hey maybe the priesthood isn’t all doldrums.’”
And while the Denver priests walked away the winners this year, they say the event was a success regardless of the final score.
“We do it all for the Glory of God,” said Fr. Leier. “God has given us human bodies and free will and to use it for his glory is awesome!”
Archdiocese of Denver Roster:
Fr. Scott Bailey / Risen Christ
Fr. Darrick Leier / St. Clare of Assisi – Edwards
Fr. Ivan Monteiro / St. Thomas More
Fr. Joe McLagan / Holy Family High School
Fr. Ryan O’Neill / Director of Priestly Vocations
Fr. Mike Rapp / Casa Santa Maria
Fr. Roberto Rodriguez / Ascension
Fr. Ron Sequeira / St. Frances Cabrini
Fr. Nick Thompson / St. Rose of Lima
Fr. Chris Uhl / Holy Ghost
Fr. Brady Wagner / Formation Adviser
Fr. Jason Wunsch / St. Gianna Beretta Molla
Fr. Eric Zegeer / Risen Christ
Fr. Joseph Toledo (coach)/ St. Elizabeth Ann Seton