By Andrew Jenkins
“I believe in the Church of Baseball.” – Annie Savoy
As you well know, Charleston has been labeled ‘The Holy City.’ Just look around; businesses, tourist offices, and promotional materials have all latched on to the name. Just ask any random three tour guides and you’ll learn six different reasons as to why we’re the Holy City and how it became part of our identity.
However, there is one church here in the Holy City that seems to be drawing out more of the city’s real personality; and that’s the Church of Baseball. Just visit ‘The Joe’ on any weekday evening and you’ll see not only local parishioners but people from all over coming to celebrate America’s Game in America’s Holy City. The RiverDogs are only an A-level ball club (and most of us true southerners turn a blind eye to the fact that they’re a NY Yankees farm club), they don’t play in a Cathedral like Boston, Chicago, or New York, they have guys that won’t be here long since they’ll either be promoted or wash out, and they haven’t won a playoff series… well, ever. Despite those shortcomings they are bringing a community together and represent not only what’s great about America but the whole Baseball Faith as well.
When you think of Charleston you define it as: Warm Southern hospitality, history, good food, amazing architecture, and an underlying sense of optimism, community, and faith.
When you define Religion you’ll see: a particular system of faith and worship, and a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.
So how could one look at our Boys of Summer and not bask in the warmth of faith in the Church of Baseball? The RiverDogs combine all that our Holy City represents and provide our community a place to come together and celebrate that. Hospitality? Check. You’ll not find a friendlier crowd in the South Atlantic League. History? Got it. Baseball has been a part of the American fabric since near its inception. Good food? Each year the RiverDogs represent Charleston well with new and innovative menu items that offer something for everyone. Amazing architecture? Go there, see for yourself the classic ballpark styling and then treat yourself to some of the most underrated views in the area.
If you stand outside of a church you’ll see a group of like-minded individuals come together, greet one another, and embrace in the warmth of their community. Same goes for a baseball stadium. There’s even synchronized standing, singing, clapping, and acts of magic. Just watch any well-turned double play up the middle and you’ll swear divine intervention was involved.
Then there is the religious system of faith, ‘Our boys are going to win,’ and worship ‘Can I have your autograph?’ The players have a pursuit to which they ascribe supreme importance: Make it to the major leagues. For some of them the difference is even as great as, will they be able to stay and live and work in America or will they have to return to their native land having that pursuit elude them? The fans ascribe that same importance to their interest in both the collective social gathering and their representatives on the field.
Baseball fans all tithe on the way in and pray for that solid base hit with a man in scoring position when you’re tied late in the game and all you need is that one run to put us up and for the love of God just please smack a single right here and I swear this place is going to explode in a release of energy that will not be matched by any other stadium in the land!
Those moments in a game, like life here in the Holy City, are what make it so great. Those answered prayers, those sunsets in the park. The passing of a gilded cup or a pitcher of sweet tea. No matter where you turn there you are and in that moment you the congregation are what make it so special. That same concept is what makes and has made Baseball and America great: The collective effort not the singular man. We as a nation play a team sport of individuals who care and sacrifice for one another. We support one another through slumps and congratulate one another when we’re on a roll. We have faith in one another and we ascribe that supreme importance in our collective success. We all play by a set of agreed upon rules and don’t mind breaking them from time to time as long as we can get away with it.
Like the players on the field we all come from different walks of life and are all there to see, feel, and experience different things in the same collective environment. Maybe you like the ballet out around the second base bag or the chess match where the two opponents stand 60 feet 6 inches away from one another. Maybe you’re just there for the cool breeze on a summer evening or a cold drink and a childhood memory. Maybe you went alone to take in the details or maybe you went with a friend to share in the experience. Maybe, just maybe you came to the Holy City to feel something more. Maybe you came to feel a rush of energy and a sense of community that doesn’t radiate from a central place but swells higher than our tides from every corner of the city.
No matter why you’re here in this city, at that ballpark, or on this earth we can all agree that there’s something for you to love in your local house of worship and some place for you in The Church of Baseball.
Photo Credit:? Minta Pavliscsak