Chicago’s Soldier Field Hosts Benefit for Baseball’s Champions of Faith

Just one week after the Chicago Bears' battled the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI, Chicago's Soldier Field will host an event honoring Major League Baseball's Champions of Faith. On February 11, 2007, Chicago Bears Co-owner Patrick McCaskey invites you to attend the First Annual Champions of Faith Awards Reception and Benefit, an event with a purpose — to raise awareness and funding for the Champions of Faith Project.

Champions of Faith is an evangelization mission of Catholic Exchange which explores the intersection of sports and faith through the experiences of some of the most accomplished and devout figures in sports, both on and off the field.

The Champions of Faith Awards Reception and Benefit's VIP guest list includes its host, Patrick McCaskey; former Chicago Cubs and current Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star center fielder Juan Pierre; His Eminence Cardinal Francis Eugene George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago; and former Chicago sportscaster and current radio host of Catholic Exchange Today John Morales. Pierre will speak and receive the first-ever Champion of Faith Award. Cardinal George will offer the invocation while Morales will serve as master of ceremonies.

In our culture, sports define much of what makes us American. For the past century, athletes — especially baseball players — have served as heroes and role models for our youth. Sports dominate television programming most weekends. Practices and games for youth sports often determine a family's schedule. But how are sports relevant to spirituality and faith in God?

The Champions of Faith Project seeks to highlight that very connection through its first documentary film, Champions of Faith Baseball Edition, a high definition DVD produced with the cooperation and assistance of Major League Baseball. The film highlights the lives and careers of some of the leading players, coaches, and managers in Major League Baseball, including Mike Piazza, Jeff Suppan, Jack McKeon, David Eckstein, Sandy Alomar Sr., and Mike Scioscia. The DVD is set to be released next month with the opening of spring training (order advance copies here).

 Along with Juan Pierre, Jack McKeon will also be honored as a Champion of Faith award recipient. McKeon, who came out of retirement during the 2003 season, led the Florida Marlins to a dramatic World Series victory over the New York Yankees a few months later. By doing so, he became the oldest manager ever to win the World Series. During his 50-plus years in the game, McKeon has always kept his Catholic faith at the center of his life.

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just before the 2006 World Series, McKeon shared how his professional baseball career was delayed by his father's insistence that his son receive a college education.  Though he was sought after by baseball scouts, he obeyed his father's wishes and went to college at Holy Cross.  He recounts how every day he stopped to pray for about 15 minutes near a grotto of Our Lady on the campus.  During these visits, he asked Mary's intercession with the Lord regarding his future in baseball.  At Christmas, his father had a slight change of heart — he still insisted McKeon finish college, but he would not stand in the way of him playing major league baseball.

Again, when he was in retirement, McKeon believed his baseball career wasn't over. He sought Mary's aid once more, as well as the prayers and intercession of St. Thérèse of Liseux, to help him discern whether to return to the game he loved for another season. The outcome was the World Series victory in 2003.

McKeon and the other Champions of Faith who are highlighted on the film, put Christ first in their lives. He says it's "his job as manager to teach players to live a good, Christian life." To that end, he ensures the Catholic players know the local Mass schedule when they are on the road.  He personally attends daily Mass and hopes his example will bring others to the Faith.

Champions of Faith Baseball Edition give an exclusive look at the effects of faith, family, teamwork, sacrifice, leadership, humility on some of the biggest names in baseball.  These champions also discuss the many virtues and spiritual lessons they have learned from our national pastime.

Champions of Faith hopes to bring this monumental film to every diocese, parish, and Catholic school in America as well as to Catholic sports teams from little league through college, a goal that will be helped by the success of the Chicago Benefit.

The afternoon will kick off at 1 p.m. with an hour-long VIP Reception where ticket holders meet and greet award recipients and other special guests. The General Reception follows from 2-4 p.m. with light snacks, a sports memorabilia auction, and a dynamic 12-minute sneak preview of the film, Champions of Faith Baseball Edition.

Tickets for the General Reception will be available at the door, but VIP Reception tickets must be purchased in advance. If you will be in Chicago on February 11, you don't want to miss this landmark event.

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