“Faith Night” at baseball games

The headline “The Church of Baseball,” evoking a line from the Bull Durham movie, will be familiar to Daily Episcopalian readers who saw Heidi Shott’s reflection on the parallels between devotion to one’s baseball team and the Episcopal Church earlier this year (here, if you missed it). But Religion and Ethics Weekly, in a piece with the same title, this week is examining a new marketing campaign designed to attract church groups to baseball games:

Fans and families cheered in the parking lot of Prince George’s Stadium in Bowie, Maryland, as Jason Dunn, lead singer of the Christian Canadian punk band Hawk Nelson, with his mohawk haircut and cut-off-shirt sleeves revealing the tattoos on his arms, took a break from jumping around stage to explain how the song “Everything You Ever Wanted” was about trying to live up to the expectations of his father.

“But I am here to tell you that Jesus Christ is better than any father any of us could have,” said Dunn.

Pre-game Christian concerts like this one, held on a humid summer evening at the home of the Bowie Baysox, a Class AA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, are part of a rapidly growing promotional — some would say controversial — event called Faith Night being offered at major and minor league baseball stadiums around the country.

But baseball, still widely regarded as America’s national pastime, seems to have embarked on something of a new era with Faith Night, searching for higher ticket sales and different fan markets. As baseball groupie and spiritual seeker Annie Savoy, played by Susan Sarandon, said in the 1988 movie Bull Durham, “I’ve tried ’em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.”

Faith Night “has gone from one team in Nashville in 2002 to 46 this year,” according to Brent High, president and partner of Third Coast Sports Inc., the self-described “foremost authority in church marketing and event planning for sports teams.”

“This rolling tour is now literally coast-to-coast,” said High, who produces the Faith Night tour.

It’s all here.

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