Combining Jesus and Baseball, More Than 60% of MLB Franchises Hold Faith Events
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At least 18 of Major League Baseball's (MLB) 30 franchise teams (60 percent) will host "Faith Night" events during the 2023 season, according to Religion Unplugged.
Thousands of fans stick around for the worship events held immediately following the baseball game to enjoy performances by Christian musicians and hear the personal testimonies of baseball players.
A handful of other teams have also hosted such events in recent years.
The "He Gets Us" media campaign – which challenges viewers to look into Jesus – is sponsoring faith events hosted by the Atlanta Braves, Chicago White Sox, Miami Marlins, and St. Louis Cardinals. In addition, "He Gets Us" is also advertising at Rangers and Los Angeles Angels games, the outlet reported.
As CBN News has reported, the "He Gets Us" campaign was launched in 2022 to reach people via TV, radio, digital ads, billboards, and experiential platforms. With a $100 million budget, the goal has been to start conversations among a wide array of people.
In recent years, other teams have also hosted events targeting Catholics and Muslims.
MLB teams frequently use themed events to increase ticket sales. Promoters target sales pitches directly to church groups and Christian radio listeners, according to Religion Unplugged.
The Los Angeles Dodgers attracted both controversy and backlash earlier this summer when the team announced they would honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a controversial drag group that dresses as nuns and mocks religious imagery like the crucifixion, during its Pride Night event on June 16.
Only one MLB team, the Texas Rangers, does not sponsor an LGBT Pride night, Religion Unplugged reported.
As CBN News reported, the Dodgers' event led to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issuing an official statement denouncing the team's decision to honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (SPI) on the feast of the Sacred Heart, calling it "blasphemy."
Several MLB players also spoke out about the team's move. Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw was among them; he told The Los Angeles Times he disagreed with the decision to honor the organization during the Pride Night game.
And, according to Kershaw, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence debacle expedited the decision to bring back another event: Christian Faith Day.
"I think we were always going to do Christian Faith Day this year, but I think the timing of our announcement was sped up," Kershaw told the outlet. "Picking a date and doing those different things was part of it as well. Yes, it was in response to the highlighting of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence."
Baseball and Faith Nights
Professional baseball's marketing to people of faith goes back at least 65 years.
Paul Putz, assistant director of Baylor University's Faith & Sports Institute, revealed teams like the Baltimore Orioles coordinated "Inter-Faith Night" in the 1950s, according to Religion Unplugged.
In a recent tweet, Putz wrote, "I was talking to a reporter today about the history of 'faith nights' in baseball and I had to bring up the 1950s version: Inter-Faith Nights. Started in Baltimore when they were a minor league team, then caught on in the majors when Cold War 'tri-faith America' rhetoric was hot."
Putz also included images of ticket stubs from Inter-Faith Nights and a newspaper article highlighting the event "to remind human beings that they belong to the brotherhood of man."
I was talking to a reporter today about the history of "faith nights" in baseball and I had to bring up the 1950s version: Inter-Faith Nights— Paul Putz (@p_emory) August 3, 2023
Started in Baltimore when they were a minor league team, then caught on in the majors when Cold War "tri-faith America" rhetoric was hot pic.twitter.com/0RdPKRRA9e
Thirty-three years later in 1991, Faith Nights with Christian music and player testimonials first began when a St. Louis Cardinals fan named Judy Boen organized the first Christian Family Day at the old Busch Stadium, according to Sports Spectrum.
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