Devotion to God, then the game

piazzaMichael Kress is the assistant managing editor at Beliefnet and a freelance religion reporter. I’ve come across a few of his articles recently as he’s published in Slate, The Dallas Morning News and other sites.

He had a really straightforward and interesting Q&A with Mike Piazza in The Seattle Times this week. Piazza is the (boo, hiss) designated hitter for the Oakland Athletics. The interview isn’t exactly probing, but it certainly puts Piazza in a new light. I’ve followed Piazza since he was with the Dodgers and knew his brother was Tommy Lasorda’s godson but was surprised by some of his responses to Kress’ questions about religion:

Q: There’s debate about whether it’s appropriate to pray for little things in life, like finding a parking space. Do you pray for victory in games, or for home runs?

A: No, I really don’t. My personal opinion is to keep it broader, to get up in the morning and pray for the Lord’s blessings. Pray for the Lord to help me do my best at my job. To pray for health. Pray for guidance. Pray for all these things. And then all the little things kind of slide in.

Q: Do you have a favorite prayer?

A: I love the rosary, and I say the Hail Mary a lot. The devotion, especially my devotion to the Holy Mother, is something that’s helped me a lot. And I love praying the rosary, so I say my Hail Marys all the time.

Q: Could you say a little more about what Mary means to you?

A: The fact that she was just so devoted and so special, that God chose her to bear his son. It’s, like, wow. It’s really a special thing. I love reading about her, and reading about some of the apparitions, or reported apparitions, throughout history. I wish I had so much grace that I would be privileged to see it.

This interview proves you don’t need to cover religion in terms of conflict or controversy. Religious devotion is a normal part of people’s daily lives and it needs to be covered from that angle, too. A column like this, where local news makers — or average Joes, for that matter — were interviewed about their religious views could be very interesting.

For more of Kress on baseball and religion, I recommend this blog post he wrote on Barry Bonds. It also reminds me of how The Washington Post‘s Marc Fisher lost me in the opening line of his story on the Nationals hosting one of those Faith Nights so popular among ticket sellers (somehow the Post managed not to notice the third annual Gay Night hosted by the Nationals last week). Fisher wrote that baseball and religion don’t mix. All this to say that anyone who doesn’t see where religion and baseball overlap has no business writing about the game. I much prefer Kress on the beat.

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  • Chris Bolinger

    Mollie, I agree wholeheartedly on your Kress vs. Fisher sentiments. Fisher’s article on Faith Night was…um…let me try to be kind…suboptimal.

  • Chris Duckworth

    Nice quote from the Piazza piece. I’d still boo the heck out of him, however, if he were to ever play a game in Philly again.

    The overlap of religion and baseball? Though I’m a huge baseball fan, I don’t see a natural overlap of baseball and religion. Perhaps I’m missing something? Well, I’ll go read those articles.

  • anne

    I just watched “Champions of Faith” and Mike DePiazza figured prominently. What an awesome film. I highly recommend it – a first rate, hi def production that shows the overlap between baseball and religion for several major league players, coaches and managers. Great to view with your children.

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    Probing would have been good, though. There is a thing or two I’d like to know about Mike Piazza – like, for all his stated devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, with all that implies (especially her Catholic and Orthodox status as a model of sexual purity), why did he marry a Playboy playmate, whose rather revealing images can still be found all over the Web? Or why did he, a year after he went on a pilgrimage to Rome and received a personal blessing from Pope John Paul II, give an interview to that same…um…intellectually stimulating magazine? Just a couple of minor incongruities that I would like to have had answered.