Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Foul Ball

With Spring Training wending through its final leg -- and not soon enough -- Baseball Season is close at hand... and the World Champions are ready and waiting to do it again.

Well, they better be.

But that aside, churchfolk in the Motor City are up in arms over the league's decision to schedule the Detroit Tigers' home opener on Good Friday afternoon:
Bill Ferris hasn't always been in church from noon to 3 p.m. on Good Friday, but he's always found a quiet place for reflection, and he's refrained from eating meat on the most somber day in the Christian calendar.

It'll be harder this year.

A devoted Tigers fan, Ferris, 34, of Troy won't miss Opening Day at Comerica Park -- even though it's on Good Friday.

"I can get around the meat thing," said Ferris, a member of St. Anastasia Catholic Church in Troy.

"I'll just stick to peanuts and popcorn because I don't think there are too many seafood options at the stadium. But I'm not sure I can find a quiet place on the concourse at Comerica."

But for some Catholics and other Christians in southeast Michigan, the Detroit Tigers’ home opener this year will be off-limits. The 1:05 p.m. game against the Texas Rangers is on April 10 — Good Friday and one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar.

That’s the day for somber reflection, personal sacrifice, church services that run from noon to 3 p.m. and a no-meat pledge, which doesn’t lend itself to downing a hot dog or two at the game.

While all 30 Major League teams are playing that day, only the Tigers are taking the field during the Christian holy hours. It's a schedule that keeps the weather and tradition in mind, said Tigers' spokesman Ron Colangelo.

"Major League Baseball has a monumental task of putting together the schedule for the entire season," he said. "Fans have come to know that our home opener is always a day game."...

Michael Ochab, 47, will miss his first opener in 20 years, choosing to attend services at St. Florian Catholic Church in Hamtramck, instead.

"It's sort of an insult for Catholics," he said. "I'm still hoping the Tigers will change the time."

The Rev. Ed Vilkauskas, pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greektown, hopes parishioners can make it to Good Friday services.

"On that day in particular, people will be contending with traffic and parking," he said. "It's going to directly keep people away."
On a related note, the brother of Tigers manager Jim Leyland is a popular priest in the clan's native diocese of Toledo -- Fr Tom Leyland was transferred out of his last pastorate in 2007 over the protests of parishioners.

The above shot, however, is taken from New Yankee Stadium in New York, which'll see its first Pinstripes hit the field come 3 April.

Built at a cost of $1.3 billion, the new field replaces the sport's best-known shrine... which also happened to be the site of the first papal Mass on the American continent, and two more to follow at that.

Still in the air, however, is whether Bob Sheppard -- the legendary announcer who's manned the booth since 1951 -- will be able to appear. A daily communicant, the Voice spent the old stadium's last season recovering from an extended illness.

Sheppard will turn 99 in October.

Audrey Tiernan/Newsday