Tamara Turner/Daily

I think I was 17 when I came to the realization that my relationships with God and Major League Baseball are very similar. 

I was half-born into both Catholicism and the San Francisco Giants because with each, only one parent really cared. My dad would lecture me about all the mediocre ballplayers from his heyday and my mom would take me to Catholic school every Sunday — the aftermath of this is that I can now name an equal number of saints and baseball players from the 1970s.

But aside from the half-baked devotions to God and baseball that were instilled in me throughout my upbringing, I’ve realized that these two things still occupy very similar spaces in my life. I go to mass, and the ballpark, maybe four times a year respectively — and usually with my grandpa. Half the time I get bored while I’m there and I don’t know whether I’ll carry on the practice in the future. I could retain a loose connection to both, or it could fade. But the moment someone mocks either institution, I get really defensive.

In many cases, I think faith embodies more than just the stated belief. Yes, there’s a holy book to follow, but I think the core tenet of belief is that there is an order and justice present in a seemingly chaotic life. And just because I don’t totally know if I believe that’s true doesn’t mean that I don’t envy that comfort, and dislike when it gets disrupted.

In theory, I’m a big fan of both God and the Giants, but the honest to God truth is that I don’t know if I believe in God, and I don’t know if I give a shit about baseball. But I like faith being an option, and I sure as hell like the ambiance of a ballpark. 


I remember when I was 16, I got way too drunk for the first time. It was a day or two before New Year’s and my parents left me at home with my Grandpa because they deemed me “level-headed, intelligent and mature.” So being the “level-headed, intelligent and mature” child I was, I stole my Grandpa’s gin and took shot after shot with my friend Michael in a park play structure.

Michael didn’t handle the gin well, and within the hour, he was vomiting everywhere. On my couch, on my floor, on me. It quickly dawned on me that I was in way over my head. I could only sit in a rocking chair, hold back tears and let Michael sleep. I was convinced that he’d choke on his vomit and die if I let him out of my sight, and that it’d be my fault if he did. I finally walked him home at 5 a.m. because his family was leaving on a road trip, but of course his parents caught us because we were neither quiet nor particularly intelligent with our entry strategy.

So I got back at about 6 a.m., cleaned up the vomit, and stared at the fan for two hours. I was still half-drunk and convinced that Michael’s parents would hate me. I knew that my parents would find out and presumably hate me. And frankly, I thought that I would hate me. 

But for some reason, I walked back downstairs about two hours later, and my Grandpa was awake. 

Knowing nothing of the seven disastrous hours that had just occurred, he asked me something he always asks me: “Do you want to go to church?” And for the first time in a while, I said yes. 

I remember sitting in that pew, barely sober, and feeling an intense wave of tranquility. The sun was shining warmly through the stained glass, the priest was speaking on love and sin and I felt content. 

There’s this moment in Catholic mass after you receive communion when you kneel and pray. And as I knelt, I understood that my life would go on, long past the gin and vomit and parental retribution that I was sure I’d face. I understood that the world would keep spinning, and that I’d be okay.

That was faith. And yes, in that moment, it was borne out of necessity. I was 16, new to delinquency, awkward and terrified. And in that moment when I felt like I was careening, I needed something omniscient and omnipresent to center me. Even just for a morning.  

But I don’t think the circumstances negate the belief. Because faith isn’t a static thing. I had it then, and I don’t know if I have it now. But I don’t think that either state of belief is permanent. I think this cycle of belief, skepticism and secularism applies even in a non-divine context. 

For example, I have a lucky five dollar bill tucked into the right side of my wallet behind a Walgreens receipt. I won it from a gas station lottery ticket I bought the night I turned 18, and when I walked out of the 7-11 that night, I was convinced that I must be lucky. The bill must’ve been an omen of this, so I decided I’d keep whatever luck had stuck itself onto that bill, and tuck it into my back pocket.

Do I think the bill brings me luck now? 


But did it make me feel lucky two years ago? 

Yes. And I’m glad it was with me then, so I’ll keep it in my back pocket now. 

I think I treat faith the same way. 


After church that morning, my Grandpa and I went to breakfast at a diner, and while I can’t tell you exactly what we talked about, if I had to bet I’d say he told me a brilliantly meandering life story before we talked about horse racing and baseball.

He probably lamented the woes of his Philadelphia Phillies and I probably pretended like I knew what was going on in the Giants organization. I always liked talking about baseball, but I never quite had it in me to watch enough games to sound smart. I’d watch when the Giants were good, or when “Jeopardy!” wasn’t on, but rarely without some sort of prompting. 

In 2016 I had a personal connection to the World Series because I wanted the Cleveland Guardians to win. Not because I particularly liked Cleveland, but rather because my sister lived in Chicago and I had decided that she shouldn’t have nice things. I have a distinct memory of being 13 and watching Game Seven, half-dressed in hockey pads, standing outside of a locker room.

It was the bottom of the eighth — the Guardians were down two and the Cubs had their star closer, Aroldis Chapman, in. The game seemed all but over. There was a runner on second, and this real mediocre player was up to bat for the Guardians named Rajai Davis. He was a “journeyman” type who bounced around from team to team and never really stuck. He was having a bad series, and was not at all who Cleveland wanted at the plate. But there he was, playing out the moment we’d all dreamed about while playing catch in the driveway.

On the seventh pitch of the at bat, he launched the ball to deep left where it snuck over the wall and knocked the cameraman over — and I went insane.

In that moment, baseball became everything it was cracked up to be. In the most exciting and suspenseful way, the underdog came up big when it mattered most. I thought to myself, “God this is incredible, I gotta watch more of this.” In that moment, baseball was a romantic and poetic thing that I knew I needed to love. 

And I’d try. I’ve always loved going to games. Whether it was the Giants, or their minor league affiliate, I could sit in a ballpark and watch a game any day. Enjoying early summer evenings with fresh air and Cracker Jacks, chanting and heckling, and watching the truly bizarre intermission games involving golf, faux horse racing and children face planting, I’d feel contentment like I felt in that church. 

Baseball in person seemed like life at the right speed, but I don’t know if it was the game or the ambiance that I was in love with. 

I’d always try to watch games on TV, and I’d watch maybe ten of them, but then I’d forget about baseball for the rest of the season. Baseball was slow, I was impatient, and the intense feeling of connection wore off, replaced only by a vague attachment. This happens every year. I fall in love with the idea of baseball, but I can never figure out how to make the relationship work.


These days, I don’t do much praying or baseball watching, but there’s a part of me that wishes I was a religious zealot with an unbridled love for baseball. I wish I could feel the comfort of faith, and I wish I could see the beauty I once saw in baseball, but right now that’s not the case. 

I’ll lie in bed and wonder why I don’t pray, or flip through the channels and wonder why I don’t watch more baseball. But I never follow through with what I wish to be. 

It’s easy to be enamored by the grandiose, all-encompassing ideas of God and baseball, but holding on to those feelings of contentment is a whole lot harder. In a quote from “Moneyball,” protagonist Billy Beane proclaims, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”

I’ve always been romantic about God and baseball, but I suppose my faith comes in spurts. And I think that’s okay.

Statement Columnist Charlie Pappalardo can be reached at cpappala@umich.edu.