St. Ann Cincinnati Reds event unique among parishes
By John Stegeman
The Catholic Telegraph
Parishes in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati host a wide array of social events. From picnics to festivals, there’s plenty in common and many parishes take advantage of a shared love throughout southwestern Ohio — Cincinnati Reds baseball.
St. Anns Parish in Groesbeck is one community that hosts a church day at the Reds game. Average attendance of Catholic parish nights at Reds’ games isn’t known, but St. Ann’s specifically has brought nearly 1,500 people to Great American Ballpark over the past four years. According to the Reds, St. Ann has been among the 10 largest church groups to attend in recent years.
With the first professional baseball team located in the same city as archdiocesan administration, and a minor league affiliate in Dayton, most of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati can be legitimately called Reds Country.
At some parishes, the office staff will go for an annual game. At others, it is parish-wide but few match the attendance and amenities of the St. Ann’s group. Sponsored by the St. Ann’s Men’s Association (SAMA), the 2014 parish Reds’ night took place July 12. In all, 219 parishioners from the St. Ann community witnessed an exciting game, even if the Reds did fall to the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5.
SAMA’s organization included five air-conditioned buses that were handicap accessible. The tickets were in the all-you-can-eat section and the group even had a police escort to drop them off right in front of Great American Ballpark.
At this year’s game, Father Tom McCarthy, pastor of St. Ann’s, was tapped by the Reds to deliver the game ball to the mound. Wearing a Reds jersey and escorted to the field by parishioner Tim Withrow, McCarthy’s image was show on the jumbotron and he gave a wave towards his parish group in the stands.
Father McCarthy noted the event has become a popular tradition in the parish.
“I think being not that far from the city, growing up near the city, they like the Reds…,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that have connections to the Reds over the years with family. It’s a big tradition.”
This year marked the parish’s fourth of hosting a Reds’ night. In 2011, the event drew 152. In 2012, they brought 520 and in 2013, they brought 434 to the game. Previous year’s games had been on weeknights, while this year’s was on a Saturday.
With a 7:15 p.m. start time, Father McCarthy even moved the Saturday evening vigil Mass from 4:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
James Blust, one of the event’s organizers, said a motivation for the event is to help families, the disabled or elderly, and others who might not get to take in a Reds game do so.
“The biggest thing is a lot of people have told us they wouldn’t be able to come down here if it weren’t for us,” Blust said. “It’s hard.”
Bob Thinnes, another organizer, said many people were involved in the planning.
“It’s just the community,” he said. “James got it together with Henry (Sajnog). It’s a big team thing.”
This story originally appeared in the August 2014 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.