After receiving backlash from the Catholic community for scheduling Opening Day on Good Friday, the Detroit Tigers have invited Pope Benedict XXX to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the season home opener.
“What better way to celebrate the Easter season with none other than the Pope,” said Tigers’ owner Mike Illish. “The Pope is a big Tigers’ fan, so he was excited at the opportunity.”
Spending much of his pre-pappal career doing missionary work in Latin America, Benedict first became a Tiger’s fan with the number of Latin American players on Detroit’s roster.
“He is a really nice guy and gave me a hard time last season about my fantasy numbers,” said Tigers’ outfielder Magglio Ordono.
Benedict last trip to the U.S. was to New York in April of 2008.
The Tigers were in town playing the New York Yankees, and in between his meeting with United Nations leaders and a summit with the region’s Archbishops, Benedict found time to attend.
“I love the Tigers,” Benedict said. “I like to joke that I am happy baseball season isn’t during Lent because I could never give them up.”
Benedict’s trip to Detroit will total less than 24 hours. Upon completion of the game, Benedict will fly back to Vatican City to prepare for Easter Sunday Mass.
The Detroit Tigers are also honoring the Holy Day by not serving any hot dogs or other meat at the game. Instead, concession stands will be selling fish substitutes.
Because the pope is the Opening Day Grand Marshal, however, the Tigers will pay tribute to the Vatican City by allowing the sale of Italian sausage.
“I have already warned the guys about no swearing in the dug-out while the Pope is here,” said Tigers’ manager Jim Leeland. “I also don’t want any players to be chewing (tobacco).”
Left-fielder Carlos GeeEn could not be reached for comment.
After entering the 2008 season as the World Series favorite, the Detroit Tigers finished in last place in the AL Central Division.
“We are hoping to start the season off with good karma,” said outfielder Curtis Largerson. “Especially with how superstitious baseball is, it doesn’t hurt to know that God is on your side.”
The Tigers’ April 10 home opener against the Texas Rangers starts at 1:05 p.m.
Post game, there will be an Easter egg hunt in the outfield for children 13 and younger. Easter eggs will be filled with blue and orange jellybeans. The Tigers organization is also working with Peep candy to get marshmallow shaped Tigers for the first 500 fans.
Many Tigers’ fans were upset when the MLB announced their schedule to find out that Opening Day was on Good Friday, but Pope Benedict assures them that they need not to worry.
“As a Catholic, Holy Friday is one of the holiest days of the year,” Benedict said. “And as a baseball fan, Opening Day is one of the most important days. It really is the best of both worlds.”