The Deacon's Bench

The rising star of the Oakland A’s announced yesterday that he’s quitting baseball to begin studies for the priesthood:

193616glh.jpgThe A’s prized prospect exited the season with a head-turning presence, accompanied by a bat that produced 31 home runs and a speedy 6-foot-2 frame that stole 40 bases in Class A ball — making him the only player in Minor League Baseball to enjoy a 30-30 campaign.

An exceptional performance and MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League followed, so surely Desme was close to getting a call, most assumed — if not for a trip to The Show, then at least for an invitation to Spring Training.

Yet, Desme insists he’d already received the call long before his final at-bat in the fall came and went — the one that would take him to bigger and better places.

It just so happens it wasn’t what the A’s organization — or anyone else, for that matter — had in mind.
The call, Desme announced Friday, came in the form of priesthood in the Catholic church.

“Last year before the season started, I really had a strong feeling of a calling and a real strong desire to follow it,” the 23-year-old said. “I just fought it.”

Thus, Desme chose to play out the season as a test of sorts, “just hoping and praying about it.”

“As the year went on,” he said, “God blessed me. I had a better year than I could have imagined, but that reconfirmed my desire because I wasn’t at peace with where I was at. I love the game, but I aspire to higher things.

“I thought, I’m doing well in baseball, but I really had to get down to the bottom of things — what was good in my life, what I wanted to do with my life. And I felt that while baseball is a good thing and I love playing, I thought it was selfish of me to be doing that when I really felt that God was calling me more, which took me awhile in my life to really trust and open up to it and aim full steam toward Him.”

The article goes on to mention that Desme will be embarking on a 10-year formation to the priesthood at a Norbertine Abbey in Orange, California.  

For those who are wondering: Desme isn’t the only ballplayer to get The Call:

John Werhas has never heard of Desme, but the former Dodgers infielder is familiar with the process that led to his decision. During two decades as a Baseball Chapel minister that took him into Major and Minor League clubhouses every Sunday morning, Werhas listened to many players struggle with a similar choice.

“They were torn by their desire to lead a more balanced life that accommodated their faith,” Werhas said. “Actually, I was one of the few voices that encouraged them — if they were good enough to play and get to the big leagues — to stay in the game as long as they had the God-given ability to play.

“If you think about it, there aren’t too many other things you could do where the two, sports and faith, better complement each other.”

Desme clearly viewed the two as mutually exclusive.

“I love the game, but I aspire to higher things,” he said on a conference call with reporters on Friday afternoon.

The fair-haired Californian’s decision separates him from the crowd, but not the quandary he clearly faced.

For many, their faith runs deeper, is far more profound, than a simple skyward index finger when something good happens for them on the field.

Josh Fields, the infielder dealt by the White Sox to Seattle in November, also considered retiring from baseball a couple of months after his 2007 rookie season.

The devout Fields was disenchanted with the clubhouse culture, telling the gathering at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes luncheon of the “many things going on in the clubhouse that I really questioned if professional baseball was for me.”

Ultimately, Fields “prayed about it and realized there is nowhere I could have more influence right now than in that clubhouse.”

You can read more at the link.

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