Come for the sport, stay for the spirit.
On Saturday, the 2014 Faith Day is scheduled at Nationals Park. Hosted by Adam LaRoche and several other Washington Nationals players, the event includes faith testimonies and a free postgame concert by contemporary Christian musician Lincoln Brewster.
"This actually came organically as a request from the players, which is very rare," said Valerie Camillo, the ballclub's chief revenue and marketing officer. "Adam LaRoche is the champion of it. He basically said he had interest. We do a lot of postgame concerts, and he brought the idea of 'Had we ever done a Christian music concert?' And in conjunction [he thought] it would make it interesting to hear personal experiences about their lives and the sort of men [they] are."
This is the second year for this type of postgame concert and testimonial format, Ms. Camillo said, but the team has supported other religious events, such as a 2012 concert with televangelist Joel Osteen, and Pope Benedict XVI's Mass during his 2008 U.S. visit.
"We don't always do themes that are tied to faith," Ms. Camillo said. "We try to celebrate diverse cultures and experiences."
Ms. Camillo said Faith Day is shaping up to be one of the top three events for group ticket sales this year.
The Nationals aren't the only team to find an audience for both baseball and religion. The Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have regularly held such events during their seasons.
"We do sell a lot of group tickets to churches, youth groups, but anyone can go and buy an individual ticket," said Devon Larson, a customer-service representative with the Colorado Rockies. "People are always excited, because they kind of have another reason to come out to the ballpark. It's a unique experience, and it gets everyone together."
The popularity of these events is not lost on Brent High of Third Coast Sports.
For the past decade, Third Coast Sports has helped roughly 75 professional baseball teams, 12 of them being major-league teams (the Nats among them) to host religious events. The reason for a Faith Day event's popularity, Mr. High said, is the number of group-ticket sales from local churches, and the outreach to those outside the church.
"It's a churchwide event," he said. "It's something that no matter whether you have 80 people in your congregation or 800, you can come with your entire congregation."
The key to a successful event is to make sure it reaches out to those who welcome it, Mr. High said, but also doesn't intrude on ticket holders who just wanted to come to a game.
"When I was in minor-league baseball, we would have Realtors nights, we would have [Boy] Scout night, we would have all kinds of different corporate evenings, and faith night," he said. "It's really no different. You can come to the game itself, enjoy the game, and really have no clue that a faith night event is happening."
Ms. Camillo said the Nationals take a similar approach.
"We specifically keep all programming postgame," she said, that way fans can "make their own determination if they want to stick around and listen to the concert."
If you go
WHAT: Faith Day
WHERE: Nationals Park, 1500 S. Capitol St. SE, Washington, D.C. 20003
WHEN: After the 4:05 p.m. Saturday game between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies
For more information: nationals.com/faith
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