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You've Gotta Have Faith? Colorado Rockies at Play In the Fields of the Lord

The Colorado Rockies' Yorvit Torrealba, who routinely makes the sign of the cross on the field, looks heavenward after hitting a home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during Game Three of the National League Championship Series.
The Colorado Rockies' Yorvit Torrealba, who routinely makes the sign of the cross on the field, looks heavenward after hitting a home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during Game Three of the National League Championship Series. (By Doug Pensinger -- Getty Images)

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By Vince Bzdek
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"I believe in the Church of Baseball," Annie Savoy says at the beginning of the great epistemological movie "Bull Durham." "I've tried 'em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball."

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The Colorado Rockies believe in the Church of Baseball, too, and right now, many of the players and staff think God has smiled on their particular congregation. After winning 21 out of the last 22 games and ascending to the World Series for the first time in franchise history, the only way several team members can explain what's going on is to cite divine intervention -- when they are allowed to.

In a postgame interview after the Rockies won a one-game playoff against the San Diego Padres to earn a wild-card ticket to the playoffs, star hitter Matt Holliday thanked God for the victory and the blessings of the season. When the interview was posted on the Major League Baseball Web site, however, the mention of God was gone.

"We try to present what the players are saying in the clearest and most concise way possible for the fans," Matthew Gould, spokesman for MLB.com, said of the excised references to God. "Space on the Web site is limited."

Though team managers and Major League Baseball have tried to downplay the team's religious zeal after an article last year in USA Today quoted several managers and players as saying a Christian-based code of conduct is the root of their success, the signs are still pretty clear that the Rockies believe God is their biggest fan.

After the Padres game, for example, pitcher Ramon Ortiz, who makes the sign of the cross on the way to the mound, said he thanked God "a hundred times." Yorvit Torrealba usually makes the sign of the cross when he runs onto the field, too, and many Rockies players point a finger to heaven after a play goes their way. Several of the players, including Holliday and Todd Helton, have crosses dangling from their necks.

The official line, according to Rockies spokesman Jay Alves, is this: "Our clubhouse is no different than any other Major League clubhouse. We certainly have men that have a strong faith and we also have men that do not."

Yet General Manager Dan O'Dowd, in an interview with USA Today before the streak, said: "You look at some of the moves we made and didn't make. You look at some of the games we're winning. Those aren't just a coincidence. God has definitely had a hand in this."

The article, parts of which Rockies players said were overstated, reported that the team doesn't allow Playboy in the locker room, players are encouraged to attend chapel on Sunday, and Bible studies on Tuesday nights are packed. The team doesn't listen to obscenity-filled rap music in the locker room like most other teams, either.

The Rockies are the only team in the majors with a paid chaplain on staff. And players share their testimonies with fans after the game on Faith Day, which includes a postgame concert and discounted tickets. The Rockies have been hosting a Christian Family Day for two years, but the name was changed to Faith Day "in an apparent effort to make [the event] more inclusive," according to the Rocky Mountain News.

The Rockies may have a bit more zeal than other teams, but they aren't that unusual.

The Nationals, Cardinals, Braves, Reds, Astros, Dodgers, Twins and Rangers have Faith Day promotions as well now, and the Baseball Chapel ministry provides volunteer chaplains for all 210 major and minor league teams. The ministry says that roughly 30 to 40 percent of players for most teams participate in its ballpark services and Bible studies.


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