For the fifteenth straight year, the priests and seminarians of the Diocese of Syracuse suited up as the Men In Black. On August 10, the team took its skills to the softball diamond at Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville. The youth from IC were led by “coach” Jack Sheridan, a junior at Christian Brothers Academy, who seemed to find room on the field for everyone on his large roster.
Once again, the game sought to raise vocation awareness. Before the first pitch, newly ordained Father Jason Hage explained how each player on the team has a different skill set.
“Each player is important and the team is incomplete without every position being filled. There is a real need in the church today for priests and religious,” he said. Father Hage explained how important it is for young people to consider that they might have the calling and the skill set to fill this position.
Father Hage also noted how important the crowd is at a game: “A good crowd shows the players support and provides motivation.” Bishop Cunningham agreed and challenged the crowd of nearly 300 from a variety of parishes to support and encourage vocations to priesthood and the religious life.
As the game got underway, the youth from IC crowded onto the field. Ken Kirkman, Malachi Clark, and the rest of the seminarians landed their hits and got on base for lefty Father Kevin Maloney, who smashed a grand slam in his first at-bat.
Though they piled it on early in this contest, the Men In Black let it slip away when the youth from Immaculate Conception, led by Nate Burns, Jack Geddes and Clare Pierret, came all the way back and tied the game in the last inning.
The day belonged to MVP Father Maloney, however, who again responded — this time with a lead-off double, later scoring to give the Men In Black another close victory in their long history.
But the real triumph of the day was for vocations and the hope that there will be many more who choose to suit up for the Men In Black.
Father Joe O’Connor is the diocesan director of the Office of Vocation Promotion.