D.C. Padres baseball team is a source of positivity
Father Dave Wells liked throwing a baseball around with other priests, but when his friend, Father Larry Young, had the idea to start a team of priests and seminarians, he wasn’t sure if it would work.
Father Young, pastor of Ascension Catholic Church in Bowie, Maryland, brought the D.C. Padres baseball team together in 2011, and Father Wells, parochial administrator at St. Martin of Tours Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, has played third base for them ever since.
The D.C. Padres are a team of priests and seminarians from the Archdiocese of Washington who play fast-pitch hardball against local Catholic high school baseball teams at D.C.-area minor league ballparks.
Padres players, all of whom have played on high school and/or college teams, play not just for fun but also to raise awareness and interest in the priesthood, which they tell their fans about during games.
“I love sports, and when someone makes that offer, ‘Hey you want to play twice a year against high school teams in a minor league stadium in front of 500 people?’ that’s always a ‘yes’ for me,” Father Wells said.
Along with baseball, Father Wells likes golf, basketball and bike riding — all hobbies he said benefit his work.
“The priesthood is an intense ministry,” he said. “Obviously you’re dealing with life-and-death situations many times and very profound moments. It’s good to have other hobbies, which can be another source of renewal, life and interest.”
Positive view of priests
Father Wells and the D.C. Padres play two or three games a year, usually in spring and early fall, when seminarians and high school athletes are not on summer break.
Another reason the team plays only a few games each season is because of the players’ busy schedules, he said. “It’s tough to get 12 or 13 priests and seminarians together on a Sunday afternoon.”
When they can, Father Wells and teammates take advantage of time off to play, but he admitted that they don’t get as much practice as they’d like.
“At this time of year when the weather starts getting nice, you can go out on your off day with some other priests and play catch and go to batting cages,” he said.
When he’s at a game, Father Wells sometimes gives the “third-inning stretch” talk to youths about the priesthood. “I try to connect with some of them and their own love of sports,” he said. “I know they love God, too, or they wouldn’t be there. I just say, ‘Hey, be open.'”
The D.C. Padres give people a positive view of the priesthood at a time when there is a lot of negativity, Father Wells said. Baseball is fun for all who attend — and the team also makes it a spiritual event.
“Knowing that lots of families and little kids come out and watch and see priests doing something outside of the ordinary, something they’re not used to and something fun, it kind of gives them another impression of the priesthood.”
The D.C. Padres’ first 2019 game is scheduled for May 12, when they will take on St. Mary’s Ryken High School of Leonardtown, Maryland, at Regency Furniture Stadium.
Susan Klemond writes from Minnesota.