A look at 'Mormon Night' at professional sporting events

By Kenneth Sisler

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 25 2012 6:30 p.m. MST

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, a returned missionary, greets Bay Area LDS youth before a June 15 game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Brinly Nearon

Enlarge photo»

Faith and professional sports have been in the public eye recently with Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow kneeling, bowing his head and praying before games.

Many professional sports teams have faith nights for the Jewish community, Catholics and Mormons, among others.

Major League Baseball spokesman Matt Bourne stated in an article in USA Today that baseball "has confidence in our clubs to conduct ballpark promotions that are appropriate in tone and conduct."

Here is a list of just a few:

Aug 21, 2011: The Denver-based Colorado Rockies held their seventh annual Faith Day.

Aug. 18, 2011: The Philadelphia Phillies have held several Jewish Heritage Nights. On this night, Jewish Heritage Night featured people enjoying traditional Jewish dancing on the field with the two Philly Phanatics mascots.

Aug. 12, 2011: The Baltimore Orioles hosted Mormon Night at the ballpark for the fourth consecutive year. The Orioles met Mormon fans in the stands and signed autographs and posed for photographs. Baltimore pitcher Jeremy Gutherie is LDS and a returned missionary.

July 22, 2011: The Los Angeles Dodgers hosted their annual Mormon Night. Joshua Creek, an LDS group, sang the national anthem and "God Bless America" in the seventh-inning stretch. The Dodgers have held Mormon Night for more than 20 years.

According to a story in the Deseret News, one young man who attended the game was getting married the next day in the Los Angeles Temple. He said attending the game was his bachelor party.

Elder Jerryl Garns, an Area Seventy, noted that several members had used the game as a friendshipping opportunity.

The Los Angeles Dodgers also hosted United Methodist Night and Episcopalian Night in 2011.

July 5, 2011: The San Francisco Giants hosted Mormon Night. The LDS Church members involved in Mormon Night are often from public affairs and are quite creative at these events. A video was shown of Mormon Helping Hands in California. The video featured humanitarian work that the LDS Church does such as collecting items for food banks, blood drives and a Scout decorating a grave at the Golden Gate National Memorial cemetery. Seven Latter-day Saints were honored for outstanding public service at the game. These members were chosen by LDS members who live in the Bay Area. Travis and Trent Weaver, twin brothers who serve in the U.S. Army, were honored. Both have served in Iraq.

June 25, 2011: The San Diego Padres held Mormon Night. LDS Church members wearing Mormon Helping Hands vests and T-shirts lined the field.

June 8, 2011: The Columbus Crew hosted Real Salt Lake for Mormon Night.

May 22, 2011: The Florida Marlins had their first ever Inspirational Forum after a game. Chris Coghlan, who is a player on the team, discussed his devotion to his faith.

May 1, 2011: The Kansas City Royals hosted Faith and Family Day.

April 10, 2011: The Golden State Warriors held Jewish Heritage Night. A question-and-answer session was held with Omri Casspi, who was born in Israel and plays for Sacramento, the team the Warriors faced that night.

April 9, 2011: The San Antonio Spurs had Mormon Night when the Spurs hosted the Utah Jazz. Sean Elliott, one of the stars of the Spurs, was given a copy of his genealogy.

Jan. 21, 2011: The Boston Celtics held Mormon Night when they hosted the Utah Jazz. A group of senior missionary couples serving in the Boston area attended the game. One of the couples was Sister Nicki and Elder Evan Excell, who were serving in the Boston welfare employment volunteer resource center. Some of the couples were from Utah so they were excited to see the Jazz play.

Dec. 7, 2010: The Florida Panthers held a Hanukkah celebration at a game complete with a lighting of a Menorah in the parking lot. There is a large Jewish population in the Miami area where the team is based.

Aug. 19, 2010: The Oakland Athletics hosted Tampa Bay for Mormon Night. Vernon Law, who won the Cy Young Award and pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates when they won the World Series in 1960 over the New York Yankees, was interviewed in the third inning.

According to a story in the LDS Church News, Jessica Scott, an A's group sales representative, was very pleased with the turnout considering it was a weeknight and several schools had already started their year.

To honor the LDS Scouts in attendance and to honor the 100th anniversary of Scouting, each uniformed Scout was given a Scout Day patch. The Scouts were shown on the Jumbotron in the seventh inning.

Aug. 7, 2010: The Arizona Diamondbacks hosted LDS Friends and Family Night.

Feb. 19, 2010: The Golden State Warriors hosted Mormon Night. Thurl Bailey, a former star with the Utah Jazz, was interviewed about his basketball career. The following night, a fireside featuring Bailey was held.

2009: The St. Louis Rams held Christian Family Day.

July 27, 2007: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hosted Mormon Night. In the same year the Angels also held Catholic Night.

2005: This was my one and only time attending a Mormon Night. The Toronto Blue Jays were playing at home to the Seattle Mariners. There were 3,000 Latter-day Saints sitting on the first base side in the first level. Hundreds of Mormon missionaries walked to center field. They received a five-minute standing ovation from the Mormon fans. Many Latter-day Saints had tears in their eyes as the missionaries sang the national anthems. Nearly everyone in my ward who attended the game sat together. It was a good social event and it was nice to sit with brothers and sisters to watch the game together.

2004: The Boston Red Sox held Mormon Night. Elder L. Tom Perry, who used to live in Boston, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

1981: This was the first time I ever heard of a Mormon Night. The Toronto Blue Jays had scheduled Mormon Night on their home schedule. At the time, there were at least four Mormons on the Blue Jays including Jerry Garvin, Danny Ainge, Garth Iorg and Barry Bonnell. Unfortunately, the event never happened due to a baseball strike.

When faith groups work together with professional sports teams, it's a win-win situation for both.

Ken Sisler is a convert to the LDS Church and wishes he knew his scriptures as well as he knows his sports, but he is trying.

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