Since 2010, from April to July, priests have replaced their clerical garb for cleats; businessmen and businesswomen have stepped out of cubicles and onto dirt and grass; and students have put down homework, picked up gloves and bats, and hit the field, representing their parishes in the Diocese of Camden’s co-ed Softball League.
This year’s season is winding down for its seven teams, all taking part in playoff action this past and upcoming weeks: Our Lady of Hope, Blackwood; Saint Rose of Lima, Haddon Heights; Holy Spirit, Mullica Hill; Saint Charles Borromeo, Sicklerville; Holy Family, Washington Township; Our Lady of Peace, Williamstown; and Infant Jesus, Woodbury Heights.
“Men and women of various ages, and a variety of skill levels, take part and have fun,” said Shaun Walsh, commissioner of the league and a first baseman for Saint Charles Borromeo’s squad.
From all backgrounds, these individuals, when they get together, bring their faith with them from the pews to the ballfield.
“God is in whatever we do, be it in the league Mass to open the season; the prayer before each game; or the fellowship afterward” at a local establishment between the two competing teams,” Walsh says.
An IT manager by day, Walsh has spent his after-work and weekend hours, three months a year, playing in the league since its inception.
Softball has become a family affair for him: his late father, Tom, was the first coach for Saint Charles (“this team meant a lot to him”), and three of his children — Sean, Jr., 28; Jimmy, 23; and Juliana, 20 — are next to him in the dugout.
The league was created to boost evangelization and fellowship, and continues in that mission to this day (full disclosure: this writer played for the Saint Rose of Lima, Haddon Heights softball team when it was part of an Ecumenical League some years back, and can attest to the spirited theological discussions that took place at practice, during the game, and afterward at Rexy’s Bar & Restaurant in West Collingswood Heights).
This year’s season is coming to a close, but will ramp back up early next year. For those interested in getting on the field next year, contact Shaun Walsh at email@example.com, or 856-466-3548.
Until then — winter ball, anyone?