Father Jose Raul De Leon, a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Sorrows, Takoma Park, takes a swing for the DC Padres in their game at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
Father Jose Raul De Leon, a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Sorrows, Takoma Park, takes a swing for the DC Padres in their game at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
Although the DC Padres fell to the varsity baseball team from St. Mary's Ryken High School in Leonardtown, 7-2, the priests and seminarians took another swing for vocations on a warm spring afternoon in Southern Maryland last month.

"It's an exciting day," said Auxiliary Bishop Martin Holley before tossing the first pitch of the game on April 29 at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf. "It's wonderful to promote vocations at any venue."

This venue included a well-manicured field, popcorn, peanuts and an earlier game featuring the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, a local minor league team defeating the Lancaster Barnstormers also 7-2.

Bishop Holley said although he played more basketball when he was younger, he always liked baseball. "My favorite team right now -- and has always been, the DC Padres," he added.

However the prelate said he hoped the fans could also see that the group of priests and seminarians on the field have a human side, and priests "come from families, play on teams." Perhaps, Bishop Holley said, there might be a future priest or even a future bishop in the stands today.

Before the first pitch, the bishop led more than 800 baseball fans in prayer and a special thanks to the visiting team from St. Mary's Ryken High School in Leonardtown.

Earlier Bret Bucci, assistant coach for the Ryken Knights, noted that "it was pretty unique playing a team of priests" including Father Larry Young, pastor of Our Lady's Church at Medley's Neck in Leonardtown and a chaplain for the high school.

His son, Junior Michael Bucci, a pitcher for the Knights said Father Young teaches the players to "stay with your faith."

The Knights got out to an early lead, scoring four runs in the first inning before the Padres tightened up their defense.

"I love baseball," said Father Dave Wells, parochial vicar at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Lexington Park. Before entering the priesthood, Father Wells played baseball for DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville. The third baseman for the Padres, Father Wells is happy to have a chance to play ball again. "It's a great opportunity for our parishioners and for anyone considering a vocation to the priesthood. To those young people he advised "don't be afraid to talk to a priest. If God put that thought into your heart - don't ignore it," Father Wells added.

The Padres dressed in new team shirts - black with the team name across the front - seemed to rally a bit in the third inning when Father Greg Shaffer, chaplain at the George Washington University Newman Center hit a blast to the gap in centerfield. Ryken tagged him out at second but not before his teammate scored the first run of the game for the Padres.

In the end the Knights were too tough for the priests, allowing only one other run in seven innings and defeating the Padres 7-2. Earlier the fans were treated to a slideshow tribute to the seniors from St. Mary's Ryken including: Austin Guy, Tyler Simms, Tyler Bond, Jarod Ford, Timmy Cook, James Nadeau and Michael Brown. In an unexpected moment, Brown used the opportunity of the large scoreboard to ask his date to the senior prom by inserting the question in the slide show. Cheers erupted from the high school bench.

There were lots of cheers for both sides as the DC Padres tossed T-shirts to their fans, many of whom held up signs in support of the priests. Dan Schmidt traveled from St. Anthony's Parish, N.E. to "support the priests."

Sara Hiers a parishioner of St. John the Baptist in Silver Spring said the baseball team was "wonderful. I think it's good for them and it's good for the parishioners."

After the third inning, Father Andrew Morkunas, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, spoke briefly about vocations. "God is talking to you. He's calling each and every one of you," Father Morkunas said. "But are we paying attention?"

The priest said the faithful must listen carefully and stay close to Christ in prayer, spend time with Christ because "He will call you when he needs you."

The Padres still have two more games on their second season. The priests and seminarians will face the varsity team from St. Vincent Pallotti High School, Laurel, on Sunday, Aug. 26 at Prince George's Stadium in Bowie following a Bay Sox game at 2 p.m. And on Sunday, Sept. 23 the Padres will play the Seton All-Stars, a group of players and alumni from Seton High School at the G. Richard Pfitzer Stadium, in Woodbridge, Va. home of the Potomac Nationals at 4 p.m.