Faith Leaders Unite to Toss First Pitch at Orioles Game

Contributed By Sarah Ellison, Church News contributor

  • 2 September 2015

Elder Jack N. Gerard of the Seventy (middle) joined with Baltimore religious leaders Reverend Dr. Alvin Hathaway and Reverend Dr. Todd Yeary to set an example of unity and love for the community at the Baltimore Orioles vs. Twins game in Baltimore, Maryland.   Photo by Sarah Ellison.

Article Highlights

  • Leaders from different faiths joined together to throw out the first pitch during LDS Family Night.
  • Religious leaders hope their example will increase unity throughout the community.

“When we truly focus on others, we quickly overcome our religious differences and are able to join together to bless lives through Christlike service.” —Elder Jack N. Gerard of the Seventy

In an effort to demonstrate the power of love and unity, three prominent members of the Baltimore faith community stood together on the mound for the ceremonial first pitch of the Orioles vs. Twins game on August 21.

Nearly 4,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their friends were on hand to witness the moment during the eighth annual LDS Family Night at Camden Yards.

But something was different this year, and Baltimore Maryland Stake President Michael Brady felt inspired to make a change.

Following April’s unrest in Baltimore that was witnessed on a national stage and impacted the city at large, President Brady invited Reverend Dr. Alvin Hathaway of Union Baptist Church and Reverend Dr. Todd Yeary of the Douglas Memorial Community Church to join him on the mound.

“Each year we have had the opportunity to select a participant to throw out the ceremonial first pitch,” said President Brady. “This year with the fresh memory of recent events that so unsettled our city and had the potential to divide our community, it seemed as though we needed to do more to demonstrate unity.”

President Brady and Rev. Hathaway serve together on the Baltimore Interfaith Coalition (BIC), formed as a means for faith communities to collaborate in bringing hope to the city. Violence in Baltimore neighborhoods moved the leaders to seek such a forum for cooperation. Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Muslim, and Jewish leaders all put theological differences aside to work toward their shared community goals.

Friday night’s pitch was just one of several ways the faith leaders hope to reach the community.

“It is important for everyone to see the spirit of unity that brings people together from different backgrounds and experiences, glued together by their moral compass,” said Rev. Hathaway, who was selected to throw the actual ceremonial pitch on behalf of the group.

“There is so much that divides people, so this historic moment to see leaders from different faith traditions as friends, as collaborators, and as confidants come together is a major witness. The impact we hope to leave is for all of the people who saw this public demonstration will leave [Friday’s] game with a sense of God's unseen hand still on the wheel of life's journey. And with God as our pilot, we will be navigated to peaceful waters and safe harbors,” Rev. Hathaway said.

The 3,925 faith members and their friends on hand were a record in the history of the event. According to Orioles representatives, it is the largest faith-based group to attend games. It was “far more than anybody had expected,” Brady said.

As a way to say thank you, the Orioles honored Elder Jack N. Gerard of the Seventy with the “Heavy Hitter” award. The award is presented to groups that sell 250 tickets or more, and the field presentation is shown on the stadium Jumbotron.

Following the on-field presentation and pitch, the four leaders headed to the stands to visit with members of the community.  

“When we truly focus on others, we quickly overcome our religious differences and are able to join together to bless lives through Christlike service,” said Elder Gerard. “Tonight was a public expression of the respect and love we feel for each other as we follow Jesus Christ.”

The night was personally significant to Rev. Hathaway, who grew up in Baltimore and viewed Orioles players as childhood heroes in the 1960s. He worked as a popcorn vendor during a game in which Oriole legend Frank Robinson hit a home run out of the park against Cleveland Indians pitcher Luis Tiant.

“To have the honor of throwing the ceremonial pitch was a very memorable moment. I practiced, lifted weights, and prayed for a successful pitch. God answered my prayer, and I threw it with the confidence of David throwing his stone against Goliath,” Rev. Hathaway joked. “The Orioles should consider signing me to a one-day contract to pitch on some occasions.”

He added: “To have a combined community of people from our collective churches, led by the Latter-day Saints, was outstanding. Many of my church members said to me that all our members should share next year in this joint experience.” 

Elder Jack N. Gerard of the Seventy poses with Baltimore Maryland Stake President Michael Brady and local religious leaders Reverend Dr. Alvin Hathaway and Reverend Dr. Todd Yeary during LDS Family Night at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Sarah Ellison.