Monday, August 10, 2015

Why Be a Washington Nationals Fan? #NatsMass

There's not a whole lot the San Francisco Giants have to envy about the Washington Nationals. Even though they had the best record in the NL last year, we beat them in an exciting NLDS playoff series. Our star player has also met success at a very young age. Only he has won the Rookie of the Year, the batting title in 2012, and was named NL MVP later that year without an "Natitude." While the implementation of a downtown ballpark has rejuvenated parts of our cities once in decline, it's hard to argue with a ballpark that allows for Splash Hits. Granted the Nationals look to the Washington Monument and the Capital building, but I love our own city and the mountainous vistas off in the (near) distance. Yet something takes place outside of Nationals Park that I wish could be replicated near ballparks across the United States every Sunday, especially AT&T Park. It's #NatsMass.
In Why One D. C. Church Started Nats Mass, Dan Steinberg writes, 
Fans who stream into the Navy Yard district before Nats games are now greeted with increasingly varied entertainment choices, from Yards Park for fresh air and views of the Anacostia River to the Fairgrounds for frat-rock music and adult refreshments to a variety of neighborhood restaurants and taverns, with more to come. 
On Sunday afternoon this summer, they've had another option: a Catholic church service. Or as the local St. Vincent de Paul church calls it "Nats Mass." 
I had the privilege of attending it with my parents, brother and nieces yesterday before the Nationals took on the Colorado Rockies. We were greeted by a man in a t-shirt with the scripted capital "W" for Washington and I was struck by, not only the beauty of the church, but the sea of red and blue. Jerseys sporting names like Zimmerman, Strasburg and Werth lined the pews. The game day energy verified that the term "liturgy" means "celebration."
To me, the beauty of #NatsMass is an example of a third way. The Church is clearly meeting people where they are at, and as a result they are showing up...more people, more often. St. Vincent de Paul was a parish on the verge of closing and today it's hard not to recognize that it holds a special corner in South East DC!.
“For me, it was kind of a no-brainer,” said Rev. Andrew Royals, 34, a Montgomery County native who became the pastor at the South Capitol Street church about two years ago. “On game days we had thousands of people walking right in front of our church. I was like, ‘Well, I’m sure some of these people would like to go to church.’…And we thought there’s no reason people can’t do both.”
At my parish in San Francisco, I love the sight of Niner or Giants jerseys at the evening mass I attend. Although such attire might seem a bit informal, I know it's because these individuals made time for worship, even after the game. Perhaps I have lowered my standards, but I know from my students that while attending a professional sports game is a wonderful opportunity and something one would not dare miss, unfortunately Mass is.
Yet, as one Nats faithful said, "Baseball offers a lot of life lessons. I find myself teaching my son about those over the course of nine innings. And when I think of all that our faith offers us—life lessons of love, sacrifice, and putting others first—I find that NatsMass before the game only deepens our experience...and love for one another."

After the Mass, the Knights of Columbus offered fellowship that included hot dogs and drinks (for a donation). I loved listening to the church yard chatter as we munched away—talk about the fight for the Wild Card position (against the Giants no less) and the post-season prospects.

I left energized and excited to Play Ball! I was grateful for the opportunity to pray with other Nats fans and left wishing that there was a Catholic church close to AT&T Park. The China Basin area of where our stadium stands was once shipping yards; not a place where the faithful once lived. Who knows, in the spirit of Transfiguration, maybe the Church could just pitch a tent? or at the very least, I hope that other cities will follow the lead of the Nats Faithful.


Photo Credits
#NatsMass
Faithful at Nats Mass

Author's note:
Dear D.C.
I consider you to be a second home. I loved living inside the Beltway and I visit as often as I can. Please note, I'm happy that you have welcomed the Nationals with such energy and enthusiasm. I think your ballpark is great...but I write what I do with my bias. It's what sports fans do.

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