America's favorite national past time has always been baseball, which means several strong associations have stuck with the sport over the decades. We usually think of baseball when we see peanuts and Cracker Jacks or hear organ music. Similarly, there's a very tangible connection between baseball and religion, particularly in terms of how the spiritual beliefs of baseball players are manifested in their pregame routines and even the jewelry they wear. Maybe not every player wears a rosary necklace when they step up to bat, but a number of them have prayers, pre-game routines and other practices that solidify their beliefs.
With that in mind, here are a few of today's players that embrace their faith on and off the baseball field and believe it has a very real effect on their performances in games.
Mike Piazza, Los Angeles Dodgers/Florida Marlins/New York Mets
Mike Piazza has built an incredible career in almost 20 years of professional play. After being the 1,390th player drafted, in 1988, Piazza battled his way into the major league ranks and was the 1993 Rookie of the Year. Today he continues to play after making 12 All-Star game selections and claiming the Major League Baseball record for most home runs by a catcher.
A top candidate to be voted into baseball's Hall of Fame once his playing days are over, Piazza has stressed the importance of maintaining faith during tough times - particularly in baseball. With baseball players known to hit slumps as often as they go on a hot streak in the batter's box, Piazza has said baseball is like the rest of life in that there’s adversity and frustrations that need to be weathered. Understanding that, according to Piazza, and maintaining faith through those tough times is the key to finding success.
Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox
One of a smaller group of Jewish players in Major League Baseball, Kevin Youkilis is famous in the Jewish community as one of the best Jewish players in professional baseball today. Youkilis has mentioned in the past that he fails to fully understand the role he plays in the Jewish community as a role model and a success story for a group of people that has endured many struggles over the years. Additionally, Youkilis is active in various philanthropies that aim to serve youth, particularly in terms of providing essential medical services to underprivileged children and combating youth suicide.
Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Considered by many to be the greatest player in baseball today, much has been written and produced about Pujols' very visible faith. He and his wife are both devout Christians who attend a Baptist church together, and on his nonprofit foundation website they have a statement expressing their goal of glorifying God and following him above all other things.
A documentary and book have been produced with Pujols' Christian faith as the subject. But that doesn't mean Pujols is without superstitions of his own: he’s revealed in interviews that the only food he’ll eat prior to a baseball game is his wife's chicken.
Many other baseball players hold spiritual beliefs, whether publicized or not, and some put those beliefs on display in the form of jewelry, tattoos and references to their faith in pre- and post-game interviews. The American sports culture is one where religion is often present, partly because many faith-based ministries, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, aim to connect with and serve athletes from a young age.
No matter what faith, however, you can always conduct worship in the religion of baseball on Sundays at the ballpark.