Fielding a Community
Five nights a week, from mid-August to mid-October, the Rainbow Softball Center at Cosmopolitan Park in Columbia, Mo., fills with recreational adult softball teams. Most league divisions contain more than eight teams. Thursday night Men’s Church League softball is one of the few exceptions to this rule, with just five teams rotating through the designated field each night. Playing in the Church League “has advantages over other leagues,” says Nathan Thomas*, manager of the St. Andrews team, specifically because of “the common thread that we share a love for sports and Jesus Christ” and “the chance to enjoy fellowship with your brothers…this is a good way for different churches to come together and not get so immersed on each other’s beliefs [and] practices.” For the teams of the league, fellowship comes both on and off the field.
While most teams in the league sport jerseys with their respective church names on them (or simply shirts matching the team’s color), the Disciples opt for a more broad design. The self-described “hodgepodge” team no longer has a specific church affiliation; several players have switched congregations since the team’s original inception. Nevertheless, the men continue to play for the Disciples. “They’re just a great group of guys,” says manager Chris Peters.
Shortstop and third base coach Corey Harden claps for his teammate at bat as other Disciples watch gameplay from their dugout. After a slow start, the team scored fifteen runs en route to a win over Fairview Church of Christ.
Scott Riley, second baseman for the Disciples, receives a dugout visit from wife Ginger and 10-month-old son Aiden. Riley, like many other players, also competes in the Church League during the summer months.
Kayanna Smith, right, slips away from the crowd of Rocky Fork Fellowship players and fans after the team’s loss to Trinity Lutheran. Smith, accompanied by her mother Amber, comes to “watch” her father Kurt play for Rocky Fork every week. Rocky Fork, despite the apparent setback of being located half an hour away, in Hallsville, enjoys a large fan contingent for each of its games.
Danny Jung, temporarily playing for Fairview Church of Christ, pitches to Nathan Thomas, right, of St. Andrews as umpire Charlie Schuster and Fairview catcher Rob Kallenbach look on. Jung normally plays for Trinity Lutheran; due to a smaller-than-normal roster on the Fairview team, he pitched in not only his own game, but also Fairview’s two matchups. Says Thomas of the league, “It’s not cutthroat competition.”
Members of Rocky Fork Fellowship and Trinity Lutheran Church gather in a prayer circle following the teams’ September 17 matchup. “A lot of the same churches play every year,” says Peters, “and you get to know the guys that you’re playing with.”