This morning I woke up only to find that I had a “fever.” No, my temperature was 98.6 and I am not suffering from the sweats or anything like that but I do have a fever. It’s called pennant fever. First, a confession is in order. I am a die hard Rays fan, almost addicted to this team. I listen to their games on the radio when I am traveling throughout the diocese, I come home and watch the conclusion of the games on TV even when they are on the West coast and I attend whenever my schedule will allow it, which is not that often. But I was there last night for one of the greatest pitching duels I have ever seen between the New York Yankee’s veteran C.C. Sabathia and our young David Price. Only a hardened heart (or worse, a Yankee fan) could not have been proud of what our team accomplished last night in the first of seven final games with the Bronx bombers. If we are successful, it looks like we might once again win the American League East Division and at the worst, we may just about have earned the wild card spot for the Fall Classic. I find my interest getting stronger even though I know I have a ton of things to do between now and the Series which will take my attention away from my beloved Rays.
I remember when I was a child in the forties and the priests did listen to Notre Dame football games while hearing confessions, using the revolutionary new toy called a “transistor radio.” Now I struggle with NOT connecting my iPhone to an ear bud and listening to the Rays on WDAE. Tonight is a good example as is tomorrow night. I have a Mass and dinner tonight for the local chapter of a fine Catholic organization called LEGATUS at the Bethany Center. The game will be half over before I can tune in from the car coming home. Tomorrow night I am in Miami for the first of our two seminary Board meetings. Thanks to MLB.com, I will still be able to listen to Andy Freed and Dave Wills on my iPhone but it will not be like watching the team on the tube. I find that in the morning upon waking I get up and before Morning Prayer or the Mass, I must read today’s Gospel according to Marc Tompkin, Gary Shelton, John Romero or Joe Smith, the four evangelists of sports in my life. It is definitely a fever, an addiction, a marvelous distraction.
Fortunately, there is the Lord’s work to be done and a lot of it right now and I feel so blessed to be back at it with full strength. To continue the baseball metaphor, last year I was on the injured reserve list and this year I have been called back by the Lord from the farm team to the big leagues. Like the Rays who delight in playing before a large crowd of fans who are into the game at a much deeper level than even myself, it is wonderful once again to be back on the roster. On Saturday night I attended the special dinner that our married, permanent deacons held during their annual retreat and thought to myself, how lucky I am to be here when last year I could not even summon up the strength to ordain the new nineteen deacons. Earlier in the day, I attended the Diocesan Pastoral Council meeting and yesterday attended and participated in a meeting of the Dean’s of our diocese and the twenty-six member Priests’ Council. For me the Fall Classic is not the best of seven but rather the wonderful work being your bishop entails.
One more baseball analogy and I will bring this “fantasy baseball” metaphor to a conclusion. This Fall as I enter what is my own “Fall classic” which will precede the Winter and Spring classics which follow, I must be feeling something like a major league pitcher whose pitching arm elbow simply gave out on him. After “Tommy John” surgery and a long period of rehab, he finally comes back to his major league team and while he may not pitch a perfect game, he does finish it and helps his team accomplish their goal. That’s exactly what I feel like this Fall. I still have a few more seasons in me, games to pitch and complete for the Gospel and for the Lord. It is not just my beloved RAYS who have helped me back on my feet but all of you by your prayers, love and support. Now it is time to try for a “spiritual sweep.” I promise, this is the last baseball talk, even when we beat the Philadelphia Phillies in October (you see, that is the team of the author of the mother of all ecclesial blogs). To my great team mates in the Church of St. Petersburg, its priests, deacons, religious and good people, let’s play ball together until His Kingdom comes.