News and Views

"Take us out to the ballgame!" BWC pays a visit to Camden Yards

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By Erik Alsgaard

The old song goes, “Take me out to the ball game.” However, about 1,000 United Methodists changed the words to “Take us out to the ball game” Wednesday night as the 2024 Annual Conference Session moved to Oriole Park at Camden Yards for a game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox.

Perhaps the most thrilling part of the night was Gunner Henderson’s mammoth grand slam in the second inning that paved the way for a 6-1 O’s victory, leaving the Red Sox wondering, “And are we yet alive?”

Bishop LaTrelle Easterling had another thrill: she threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

“It was the thrill of a lifetime,” she said afterwards. “What a wonderful night. I’m very thankful for everyone’s support of this event and for those who helped make it possible.”

Standing on the field before the game with her husband, the Rev. Marion Easterling, and sporting an Orioles “City Connect Jersey,” she was joined by her two sons, Miles and Garrett. It was clear the bishop was excited to see her beloved Red Sox take on the Orioles.

Among the crowd of United Methodists, nestled in the leftfield seat, were young and old, grandparents sitting with granddaughters, people who had never been to a game in-person and some who have season tickets and had been to the ballpark three times already this week.

Ryan Taylor, a high school senior from Baltimore County who will graduate from Randallstown High School next week, is a youth member at large of Annual Conference who loves the Orioles. This is her fourth time attending Annual Conference.

“I try to do at least five games a year,” she said, sitting with other youth members and their adult leaders in the left field seats. “This is my fourth game this year.”

She added that not only was the game a lot of fun, but it was great to see so many United Methodists coming together in fellowship.

“I feel like a lot of the time, when we’re doing church work, it always feels so serious and its easy to be uptight,” Taylor said. “Stuff like this (ball game) helps us to realize that there’s more to church work than just being professional; you have to build relationships as well.”

Taylor was also excited about the Annual Conference Session, especially the theme this year, “Like a Fire Shut Up in Our Bones.”

“I feel like it’s getting everyone fired up, no pun intended,” she said. “I feel like it’s a push in the right direction."

Frank Robert, Associate Director of the Mid-Atlantic Foundation, attended the game decked out in Orioles gear.

“I think we’re very excited for the game,” he said. “It was great to get set-up with the bishop throwing out the first pitch, and the O’s have a great team; they’re young and I think it’s going to be a good time tonight.”

Another Red Sox fan in attendance, wearing a Sox shirt and ballcap, was the Rev. Erica Robinson-Johnson, Chief Administrative Officer for the BWC, who, like Bishop Easterling, calls New England home.

“I’m wearing a Red Sox shirt because I’m a member of the New England Annual Conference,” she said, standing behind home plate. “And, because my bishop is a Red Sox fan. I’m very excited to watch her throw out the first pitch.”

Paul Eichelberger, BWC Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer, stood in the stands behind home plate in his Orioles regalia as the bishop threw out the first pitch. He said that as soon as he saw the schedule earlier this year, he knew that he had to help make this event a reality.

“We should do this every year,” he said. “This was on our list to make this happen. This was our dream. My only regret is that we can’t get the sweep tonight.” A “sweep,” in baseball terms, is when a team wins all the games in a series of games against an opponent.

The attendance for the game was 18,857, but for the United Methodists who came, the experience was heavenly.