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BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- For the second straight year, the Brooklyn clergy showed their prowess on the softball diamond with a 2-1 win over principals and teachers of diocesan schools.
The annual Collars vs. Scholars game was played June 17 at the MCU Park baseball stadium in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. It's the home field of the New York Mets-affiliated Brooklyn Cyclones.
"Once again the Collars walked away with the victory. It is a great opportunity to celebrate Catholic education, honor our students and have a nice evening," said Father Christopher Bethge, parochial vicar at Incarnation Parish in Queens Village. "Looking forward to Collars going 3-0 next year."
"It was a great experience to play with fellow colleagues on the field where the Brooklyn Cyclones play. Everything about the night was top-notch, and even though we were robbed of our last at-bat, and evitable tying and winning run of the game, we look forward to a rematch and subsequent victory in next year's game," Tom Morris, principal of St. Adalbert's Catholic Academy in Elmhurst, told The Tablet.
DeSales Media, parent group of The Tablet, Brooklyn's diocesan newspaper, sponsored the game as part of the Catholic Schools Night celebration. It was played prior to Cyclones game against the Aberdeen IronBirds, a minor league team affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles.
The Scholars struck first when John O'Brien, principal of Good Shepherd Catholic Academy in Marine Park, drove the ball past the left fielder and ran all the way around the bases for a home run.
But in the third inning, the clergy hitters came alive. When some of the veteran priests could not attend, the Collars boosted their lineup with seminarians and younger priests. That proved to be the difference.
Father Chris Heanue, administrator of Holy Child Jesus Parish in Richmond Hill, led off the frame with a hit. Newly ordained Father Edwin Ortiz, parochial vicar of St. Athanasius Parish in Bensonhurst, added a one-out single. Then major seminarian Elvin Torres slashed a double down the left-field line. Paola Salazar, a college seminarian, added another hit and the Collars had all the runs they would need.
The Scholars posed a major threat in the fourth inning. Christopher Scharbach, principal of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Academy in Belle Harbor, was on first base and O'Brien was poised to hit when MCU officials declared that time was up and the victory went to the priests and seminarians.
The evening featured a giveaway to honor last year's MVP -- a bobblehead of Sister Shirlee Tremont, a member of the Religious Teachers Filippini. In her only plate appearance this year, Sister Shirlee fouled out, although she made several stellar plays on defense at second base.
Before the game, DeSales Media and the Brooklyn diocesan Office of Catholic Education honored valedictorians and salutatorians from the elementary schools in Brooklyn and Queens.
"The Scholars vs. Collars softball game was a wonderful way to help bring the school year to an end," said O'Brien.
"The game was a lot of fun and was filled with good spirit," he told The Tablet. "It was great to play alongside my colleagues and against the collars, many of them my friends and former students. They should count themselves lucky though -- one more pitch and things would have ended differently! Looking forward to a rematch next year!"
"The game was a lot of fun and it was wonderful to be able to honor the students in front of a large audience so they could get the recognition they deserve for their hard work all year," said Russell Berry, principal of Holy Angels Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge.
Echoing those sentiments was Father Jason Espinal, parochial vicar at Our Lady of Angels Parish in Bay Ridge. He said he didn't think there was any better way to celebrate Catholic education and award graduates for their achievements than by gathering around the "ol' American pastime."
"We know that Catholic education is about the formation of the whole individual. This game was proof of it. We celebrate hard work and learning," Father Espinal said. "We come together as a people of a common faith, and we can have fun with wholesome competition. It was great being on the field again, even better because we won (even though it was a close call). Three cheers to our students, our teachers, our consecrated religious, and our priests!"
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Wilkinson is editor emeritus of The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn.