By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles
LAKE CHARLES — After a three-year hiatus, the 2022 Wiffle Ball Classic between Priests and Seminarians for the Diocese of Lake Charles was back in full swing on Saturday, August 6, with a nail-biting 16-13 victory for the team of Priests.
Several hundred faithful spectators — which included fellow priests, religious sisters, and parishioners — filled the gymnasium in the Family Life Center of Our Lady Queen of Heaven for the crowd-pleasing competition. Funds raised support the Priests Retirement Fund, Seminary Fund, and the Serra Club of Lake Charles which assists the Office of Vocations.
After a blessing from Bishop Glen John Provost, the spirited rivalry was underway after a few words of advice from Father Michael Caraway, Vocations Director. To the priests: “Warm up and stretch.” To the seminarians: “Begin praying now!”
What looked like a runaway game in the first inning with the priests leading 9-2, the seminarians would turn things around coming out on top 11-9 by the bottom of the sixth inning.
All that pre-game stretching by the priests (and probably a few silent prayers of their own) paid off. After no scores for the next four innings, they were back in the game with seven more runs to put their team back in the lead 16-11 going into the seventh and final inning.
After starting off with such a strong lead, Father Caraway said the priests had to change their game plan when the seminarians gained control.
“We relied on God’s providence, of course, realizing that God would work it all together for the good,” he said confidently. “When it looked like the seminarians could win, we kept our strategy simple. A lot of times God’s plan is simple, so we got back to the basics of hitting ground balls and doing our duties as batters. That is all God wants us to do daily, and He will win it for us.”
While it was not officially announced, seminarian Hunter LaRocca could have easily been named MVP based solely on his sheer enthusiasm every time he caught a fly ball.
“All those years of playing in outfield when I was younger, and the ball never came to me. Well, today it paid off and I used my full potential,” LaRocca said about the five fly balls he caught.
Souder, the only seminarian to score all three home runs for their team, is no stranger to baseball having played most of his life.
“I love baseball and wiffle ball. I was hitting the ball as hard as I possibly could,” he said, but acknowledged it was not enough in the end.
“When we shut the priests down for a few innings and passed them in the lead, we thought it was in the bag, but the priests came back, turned on their bats, and hit a ton. Hats off to them for playing such a good game,” Souder said with a show of seminarian sportsmanship.
While the game is played in the spirit of fun, it is all about supporting vocations in the diocese.
“The Wiffle Ball game not only funds the Priest Retirement Fund and Seminary Burse Fund, but it also raises funds for vocations so the Serra Club can help do all the things they do throughout the year,” said Father Caraway.
“It is always fun to get together for a little friendly competition joining the priests and seminarians, with the people of God, to have a little fun and play Wiffle Ball which is always a big hit,” Caraway said of the fundraiser.
The priests’ team included Father Michael Caraway (Vocations Director), Monsignor Daniel Torres (Pastor, Our Lady Queen of Heaven), Father Jeffrey Starkovich (Pastor, St. Pius), Father Rojo Koonathan, HGN (Pastor, Christ the King), Father Paul Jussen (Pastor, Our Lady of Good Counsel), Father Jenesh Joseph, HGN (Pastor, St. John Bosco), Father Trey Ange (Pastor, Immaculate Conception, Jennings), Father Joseph Caraway, (Parochial Vicar, St. Henry), Father Sam Bond (Parochial Vicar, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception), and Father Michael Beverung (Parochial Vicar, Our Lady of Prompt Succor).
The seminarians’ team consisted of Deacon Josh Page, Hunter LaRocca, John Souder, Philip Seilhan, Michael DesOrmeaux, Liam Leonard, Nicholas Poncho, Seth Rodriguez, and Justin Fontenot.
As Wiffle Ball champions, the team of priests received a $2,000 check for the Priests Retirement Fund, and the team of seminarians received $1,000 for the Seminary Fund.
Other game highlights included:
- Bishop Provost using a light saber to call Liam Leonard “safe” on first base
- Lively commentary by KPLC 7News Sunrise co-host John Bridges serving as Master of Ceremonies
- Philip Seilhan, who is legally blind, batted with a pickle-ball paddle commenting that he “hits by faith and not by sight”
- Father Beverung’s niece holding a homemade sign that read: Geaux Uncle Father Michael!
- John Souder pitching barefoot
- Father “Yoda” Bond batting on his knees
- Father Michael Caraway catching a fly ball one-handed
- Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs cooked by the OLQH Knights of Columbus Council 4562
- Scrumptious sweets provided by Catholic Daughters and parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Heaven, St. Martin de Porres, Christ the King, and Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
- Team spirit provided by cheerleaders of St. Louis Catholic High School and St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic School