He Is Risen... Now Play Ball
For the 109th time, the national pastime kicks off tonight as -- in one of the game's newer traditions -- the defending World Champions face their most despised divisional opponent, starting a new season with what's arguably the greatest rivalry in sport.
Suffice it to say, down with the Evil Empire.
It's a relatively rare grace these days, but it was this Phils nut's special gift of Providence to grow up, almost literally, in the shadow of the ballpark -- so close you could see the lights, hear the cheers, walk to the corner to watch the climax of the fireworks games, you get the idea. And there's something even more blessed in it: when that's your existence, it becomes more than just a game… and when your team -- for all its current "Golden Age" glory -- is, in the broader frame, the losingest franchise in the annals of any professional sport, the seasons give you a way of enduring the slumps off the diamond, the losing streaks of life.
Sure, there were many of those on-field through the years -- too many long Friday nights and Sunday afternoons at the Vet to count… not to mention looking over a couple sections one memorable Opening Day to find students from rival Catholic high-schools doing the church proud by throwing each other down rows of seats in the 700 Level on national television. But as with every loss, every Good Friday, there's always an Easter, even if it takes some time (read: 28 years)… so when a friend called on the afternoon of 29 October 2008 with a question that ended up finding this scribe in the third row at third base as the Phils won their first World Series -- and, after a quarter-century drought, this River City's first championship -- of my lifetime, as moments and experiences go, that one will forever remain pretty tough to top.
Forgive the reflection, but it's just a prelude to a special treat for this dual Opening Day: long known for an especially intense devotion to his hometown Redbirds, the church's "play ball" comes from the newly-blogging Bishop Rick Stika of Knoxville…
As Easter's heralds go, that beats the Cadbury eggs by miles.
And for a take closer to home, let the White-Shoed One who, even in death, remains this town's most-beloved narrator of all proclaim anew what, regardless of team, we've all got:
So with the Triduum's marathon behind, and as another season of new life dawns, Go Redbirds, Go Phils... and whichever one's got your heart.
And above all, again, Blessed Easter, gang... in more ways than one, this is the day the Lord has made -- and God knows it hasn't come soon enough.
According to word from the East Tennessee church, the trio's vestments caught flame, causing severe burns to the face and upper body of each.
VIDEO: Deacon Patrick Murphy-Racey/Diocese of Knoxville