The Marians pose for a photo after the softball game. TOP ROW (left to right): Br. Jim McCormack, MIC; Fr. Mark Baron, MIC; Br. Richard Mary Dolan, MIC; Michael Davy (Br. Andy Davy's brother); Allen Alexander (novice); Br. Andy Davy, MIC; Br. Jason Lewis, MIC; Fr. Bob Venetti, MIC; Matthew Holladay (novice); Br. James Cervantes, MIC; Steven Ybarra (novice). BOTTOM ROW (left to right): Br. Ken Dos Santos, MIC; David Blaisland (novice); Juan Pablo (novice); Br. Chris Alar, MIC; Fr. Klaudius Rokicki, MIC; Br. Angelo Casimiro, MIC.
The numbers don't lie.
By Dan Valenti (Nov 2, 2008)
The World Series has retreated into the stubbled cornfield beyond the centerfield fence, the bats have been put in their boxes, and the brown blush of mid-fall mingles with the advance guard of the coming winter. Nonetheless, today we put the weather on hold and late summer on speed dial.
We conjure a delightful Marian moment that will not rate mention in any sports almanac or spiritual journals, and yet it sets records for what it tells us about a beautiful band of brothers who find in recreation "re-creation," renewal, and a reminder of why they are Marians in the first place. You wouldn't think this could happen on the dusty diamond of a pickup softball game, but it did. It did in such a way that the Marian nine did something no other Marian team has ever been able to do: Beat the mighty Dominicans. David routed Goliath, 23-9.
To Everything a Season
The Marians of the Immaculate Conception have played the Dominicans in an annual Labor Day softball game for many years and had never been victorious. As Ecclesiastes puts it, however: "To everything a season, a time, and a purpose." Labor Day, Sept. 1, 2008, would finally put the fighting Marians' in the win column. Their time had arrived.
The two teams squared off on the softball diamond behind the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. The Dominican facility is located across the street from the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and the Catholic University of America (CUA).
Several Marian seminarians now study at the Dominican House, including Brs. Angelo "The Angel" Casimiro, MIC; James "Big Serve" Cervantes, MIC; Ken "Dinger" Dos Santos, MIC; Jim "The Needle" McCormack, MIC; Andy "Teddy Bear" Davy, MIC; Richard "The Ripper" Dolan, MIC; and Chris "The Cat" Alar, MIC. Brother Jason "Lights Out" Lewis, MIC, attends CUA. All but Br. Ken played in the game. Brother Ken, along with Br. James and novice Steven "No Holds Barred" Ybarra, attended the contest, populating the bleachers to root for their brothers.
Father Mark "Bopper" Baron, MIC; novice Allen "Anvil" Alexander; Fr. Bob "Vengeance is the Lord's" Venetti, MIC; novice Matthew "Doc" Holliday; novice David "Gilligan" Blasland; novice Juan "The Wonder" Pablo; Fr. Klaudiusz "Wrap 'em Up" Rokicki, MIC; and Bro. Andy's brother, Michael "Doubles" Davy rounded out the Marian lineup. It's interesting to note that Fr. Klaudius had never played softball before, but he took to the game instantly and played strongly.
'High Gear' Gaitley on the 'DL'
The Marians came into the game handicapped by missing the services of its best player, Br. Michael "High Gear" Gaitley, MIC, who is currently on the disabled list, otherwise known as studying the Polish language in Poland. Outside observers might have pegged the outlook "grim" when the Marians took the field, and the Sports Books in Las Vegas would have given healthy odds indicating an expected Dominican win, but then again, the experts have been wrong many times before.
"This is the first time we've beaten the Dominicans in softball, so this is a sweet victory!" said Br. Angelo after the game. He said the Marians practiced Friday night, Saturday morning, and Sunday night in anticipation of the big showdown. Brother Rich, who played college varsity baseball, managed the "Mighty Marians," as the team dubbed itself. Brothers Jason and Chris rounded out Rich's "staff," serving as assistant coaches.
The honor of throwing out the first pitch went to Br. Ken, who threw a strike to Fr. John "Leggy" Langlois, OP.
A Band of Brothers
"There was a lot of camaraderie among the guys," Bro. Angelo said, "and we were constantly encouraging each other to play well." The game began (and ended) with an opening (and closing) prayer, with both teams joining in offering their day of fun and relaxation to the golory of God.
The Marians got on the board first on a three-run home run by Br. Rich, but the Dominicans answered with three of their own in the bottom of the inning. Brother Rich also poled a solo shot in the ninth. After the knotted first inning, though, the Marians began pulling away, putting up a three spot in the second, four each in the third and fourth, a solo tally in the fifth, and three more in the top of the sixth. After six innings, the Mighty Marians led 18-7. Over the final three frames, the hot bats of the Marians continued smoking as they put up one in the seventh and four more in the ninth. They only inning they didn't score was the eighth.
Meanwhile, pitcher Matt "Doc" Holliday held the Dominicans at bay. While Matt may be a Marian novice, he's a mound magician. Beguiling the Doms with an assortment of pitches, Matt proved true Warren Spahn's great adage: "Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing."
'Impressed by the Teamwork'
The Marians were typically humble and generous in victory, and couldn't say enough about how the team pulled together to pull off a major upset.
"I was most impressed by the teamwork, and how well we all worked together," said Br. Jim. Novice David Blasland said he played in the game because of the opportunity to work with the guys under a different set of circumstances: "I wanted to help the Marian team and learn more about each other in working together." Asked what he thought were the key ingredients in the victory, David answered, "Trust, practice, and prayer."
The Marians were paced by Br. Rich's 5-for-5 afternoon, including his two home runs. He drove in four. Brother Jason also went 5-for-5, knocking in five runs with four doubles and a triple. Brother Chris and Fr. Mark each contributed four hits to the Marian attack, with Fr. Bob, Br. Andy, David, and Fr. Klaudiusz each collecting three. Brother Jim, Br. Angelo, and Matthew each had a pair of hits to assist the Marians' cause. In all, the Marians banged out 38 hits. As a team, the Mighty Marians went 38-for-63 for a robust .603 batting average.
In the field, the Marians made several sparkling plays. Defensively, they opened up like this: Br. Rich 1b, David 2b, Br. Jason ss, Fr. Bob 3b, Fr. Mark lf, Michael D. lc, Br. Andy rc, Br. Jim r, Br. Chris c/2b, and Matt p. The starting batting order resembled a "Murderer's Row" of sluggers: Br. Jason, Br. Chris, Michael D., Br. Rich, Fr. Bob, Br. Andy, Br. Jim, Fr. Mark, David, and Matt.
'Mary's Little Army'
"The Marians really came together as a team," said Br. Angelo. "Of course, we wanted to win, but we also wanted to have some good, clean fun out there, which we did. Brothers Rich, Jason, and Chris were excellent coaches. I'm terrible at sports, but with Br. Jason's coaching especially, I actually did well in batting this year, which really surprised me." Brother Angelo's 2-for-4 at the plate proved the point.
"We were like Mary's little army," said Br. and Mgr. Rich. "Everyone was an MVP in the game. Each man played his role well. There was great teamwork and a spirit of unity. This, I hope, foreshadows many great spiritual things to come for the Marians. We played out the verse from 1 Corinthians 12:12: 'The body is one and has many members, but all the members, many though they are, are one body, and so it is with Christ."
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Dan Valenti writes for numerous publications of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, both in print and online. He is the author of "Dan Valenti's Journal" for thedivinemercy.org.