Father Larry Swink, the new pastor of Jesus the Divine Word Parish in Huntingtown, pitched and played the outfield for the University of Dallas and will be among local priests on the DC Padres team promoting vocations.
Father Larry Swink, the new pastor of Jesus the Divine Word Parish in Huntingtown, pitched and played the outfield for the University of Dallas and will be among local priests on the DC Padres team promoting vocations.
The Washington area may have plenty of local baseball teams to cheer on, but the faithful can really root for the home team when nine priests and seminarians take the field at Prince George's Stadium in Bowie next month.

The DC Padres led by Father Larry Young, pastor of Our Lady's Church at Medley's Neck in Leonardtown, will play their first game on Sept. 4.

"We hope it will be a fun, positive, upbeat event where we can spread the word about what a tremendous gift a vocation to the priesthood is, and invite young men to pray and consider whether the Lord might be calling them as well," said Father Young. "We want to generate interest and raise awareness for vocations."

The priests' game will immediately follow a 2 p.m. match-up between the Bowie Baysox and the Erie SeaWolves. The Baysox are the Baltimore Orioles' Double-A affiliate in the Eastern League. The DC Padres will face a team of local high school and college-age players and take a break between the third-inning to talk to the crowd about vocations to the priesthood.

This "third-inning" stretch will feature testimonials from the players as a way to "spread the good news about the great vocation to the priesthood," added Father Young, an Orioles fan.

The idea for the DC Padres came after the success of DC Hood, a group of priests and seminarians who play basketball throughout the archdiocese, including a game at the Verizon Center. Father Young and Father Larry Swink, pastor of Jesus the Divine Word in Huntingtown, both played baseball when they were younger and wanted to see if that same model might work for the summer sport.
Father Swink, a Nationals fan, played as an outfielder and pitcher at the University of Dallas and is looking forward to playing again. Additionally, the event helps families "see priests in a fun environment," he said.

The pastor said the relaxed setting allows the youth to let their guards down, leaving them "open to God's will, open to the priesthood and religious life."

The DC Padres baseball team features Father Young; Father Swink; Father David Wells, parochial vicar at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Lexington Park; and Father Jose Raul DeLeon, parochial vicar at Our Lady of Sorrows in Takoma Park. Six seminarians from Mount St. Mary's Seminary are playing: Shaun Foggo, Kevin Dansereau, Noah Morey, Adam Cesarek, Matthew Hoelscher, and Stephen Jagla. Rounding out the DC Padres' lineup is Father Andrew Fisher, pastor of St. Ambrose in Annandale in the Diocese of Arlington.

Father Wells, a former third baseman for DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, said he played on the field at Prince George's Stadium before. "I never thought I would play on it as a priest though," he noted. The Orioles' fan said both the DC Hood and DC Padres is a chance for young people to see that "priests are normal people."

The team will be outfitted in special baseball shirts and hats made by a parishioner at Our Lady's Church. St. Mary's Ryken High School in Leonardtown also donated their baseball equipment to the priests' team.

Tickets to the Baysox game, which includes staying to watch the DC Padres, cost $5. These discounted tickets may be purchased through the parish office at Our Lady's Church. Send your check to: Our Lady's Church, 41348 Medley's Neck Rd., Leonardtown MD 20650. The tickets purchased through the parish will be left at Will Call at the stadium. Please call 301-475-8403 for more information.