The Baseball Saint

A Dream

On the morning of April 11, 2020, I wrote in my journal about the dream I had throughout the night. I was in what seemed to be a church hall attending mass with a room full of women. When the time came for communion two women cut in front of me, but as I weaved around tables and chairs to make my way to the priest I ended up ahead of them. When they noticed, they bolted past me and arrived at the priest right as I was about to receive the Eucharist. I was confused but not upset, knowing that my time would come. As I stepped up to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus the priest turned away explaining that there was no more. My heart sank. I yearned for the Body and Blood of the one who gave his life to save mine.

While replaying the dream in my head I attributed it to the current situation: not being able to attend mass in person because of COVID-19. I knew in my heart that every Catholic should have the ambition of the two women making their way to the priest and the yearning for the Eucharist I exhibited in my dream. We should be rushing to our Lord and have the desire to receive Holy Communion at all times.  

A Desire

Two months later, on June 10, I attended mass for the first time since March. Two of my nieces, including a goddaughter, were getting confirmed. My heart was eager for the opportunity to receive Holy Communion again, but my mind played games. What if I don’t feel anything special about being back in a church? What if I feel nothing at all? What if my dream was simply that- a dream?

As the young men and women were anointed by the Holy Spirit I was reminded of the power of the Trinity. No matter how I felt during this mass I would always be filled with God’s mercy. The priest made his way pew by pew offering the Holy Body while the cantor sang beautifully,

“Holy Spirit, You are welcome here.
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere.
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for.
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord.
Your presence, Lord.”

And then there they were. The chills, the desire, the tears. I could feel the Holy Spirit, and unlike in my dream, I was able to receive the Eucharist. It was just as I had imagined—powerful.

Each time I attended mass once parishes started opening back up I remembered the dream. At one particular mass someone from my childhood came to mind. 

A Deep Faith

Most people think of baseball when they hear his name but I think of his deep faith… then baseball. Gene Schultz, or Coach, began attending daily mass back in 1995 when tragedy struck our small community. The high school math teacher, the husband of the beloved kindergarten teacher, endured a heart attack while working on the roof of a house and lost his life. Students, faculty and community members mourned his death. Coach Schultz was to work with Mr. Welper the next day on that same roof.

I still remember going to mass on Wednesday, September 12, 2001 with a friend. We didn’t know what to do with our emotions following the horrific acts of the day before so we got up early and made it to the church before we started our school day.  We walked into the church and there was Mr. Schultz, our P.E. teacher, the winningest high school baseball coach in the nation and most importantly a man of deep faith.

Unwavering Devotion

Known by spectators for his uncanny poise during a baseball game, his athletes knew him to be a genius in the sport: competitive yet composed, steadfast and unwavering on and off the field. Unwavering too, I believe, in his faith.  His athletes recall many prayers before tournament games for safety and of course, if in God’s will, a win. In more recent years, he highly encouraged the whole team to attend mass together before state tournaments. 

Coach promised to go to daily mass from that day in 1995 forward. His daughter told me of a time just recently when her parents were on vacation down south and were making their way back home. There was a lot of construction and detours which made finding a Catholic church difficult. Her mom suggested they miss mass just this one time. Coach, however, would not hear it. He found a church, out of their way, and made it to mass. He held true to that promise until March of 2020 when he no longer had the privilege to attend mass. 

The Saint of Baseball

I believe the way I felt in my dream back in April is how many felt when churches around the world closed. Most of us have never been denied the opportunity to practice our faith, yet here in 2020 we endured months of praying in front of a computer and without the Eucharist. 

Just as we rush to get the best seats at a ball game we should be rushing to receive our savior Jesus Christ, just as the women in my dream did. Coach Gene Schultz is indeed a genius in the sport of baseball, but the deep faith he demonstrates to his wife, his four children, his extended family, the community, and now his grandchildren is what makes him who he is.  He has more wins than any other high school baseball coach in the nation and throughout his career had been contacted by programs to see if he’d be interested in coaching at the junior or collegiate levels, but he found his true identity in the Catholic faith. No, Coach Schultz is not a canonized saint, but in our small community he is the Saint of Baseball. 

Copyright 2020 Destiny Welsh

Destiny Welsh is a special education teacher in the Des Moines Public Schools. She grew up the youngest of 14 children in the small northeastern town of Lansing, Iowa. Hiking the beautiful bluffs along the Mississippi River as a child created a sense of adventure that continued into adulthood. She has always felt God was calling her to learn about cultures other than her own, and now spends much of her free time working with immigrants and refugees in the Des Moines area. Destiny continues to rely on God to lead her to her next adventure, wherever that might be.