Verbum Dei “Boys of Summer” bring spirit and skill to pick-up games of catch

The Verbum Dei Eagles varsity baseball team warms up by playing catch prior to the first game of a March 3 doubleheader in Avalon on Catalina Island.  Photograph by John Stradley, English Department Chair

“You wanna have a catch?” It’s a line of dialogue from 1989’s Field of Dreams that is certain to tug at the heart of anyone.  The question in the film speaks to lost opportunities, to times past, and to new beginnings.  When I pose that same question to the gentlemen of Verbum Dei, I speak of new opportunities, of better understanding, and also to some new beginnings.  Playing a pick-up game of catch has become a cherished part of my lunchtimes at the Verb.  My classroom faces Senior Square, and on any given day, several members of the varsity baseball team congregate at the tables outside in the corridor.  I have taken to storing my equipment bag in my classroom for such opportunities. 

 Playing catch in that space allows my students and former students to see me in a new light and under a blue sky, far removed from the classroom setting that is the basis of our most frequent interaction.  As their thrown balls smack into the pocket of my favorite glove or my throws find their mark in their mitts, we enjoy the celebration of baseball – the delight in throwing accurately and catching decisively.  I see these gentlemen in a different light as well, for many who squeeze their hands into one of my two extra child-size gloves are not current players on the Verb roster, but former park-leaguers and Little League players who have left the game for other pursuits.  Still, the feel of the stitches and the warmth of a leather glove draw them back.

I had the good fortune to accompany our baseball team to a double header against Avalon High School on Catalina Island a few weeks ago.  It was a wonderful day for baseball in any setting, and the Verbum Dei squad represented themselves well in play and in spirit.  The team is forming anew with different coaching and many new players.  Along with their equipment bags, the players bring a desire to learn, to grow, and to contribute.  While the viability of fielding a baseball team may have seemed dubious earlier in the school year, all elements have come together to make Verbum Dei baseball a reality.  “If you build it, he will come,” whispers the voice of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams.  The dedication of many at the Verb has shown that if you build it, they will come, and they will come with heart and a desire to contribute.

The Unexpected

On a recent visit to one of our Corporate Partners, the supervisor was outlining the tasks each of his 4 students perform, and was explaining how much he appreciates Verbum Dei’s students. He then pauses and tells me, “You know, when we first started this program, I expected to spend a considerable amount of time training our students when they first arrive, re-explaining instructions and that sort of stuff. I knew they would be young and that I would have to get used to them being here. But, what I didn’t expect was to miss our students on the days when they are out ill. We have come to rely on them so much that when they are not here, man, we miss them and our work load doubles! We all look forward to their arrival because they energize and increase morale in the office. They are members of our team and carry out important tasks, so when they are absent, I hurt for help!”

From my visit with this company and many others, it is evident that the students add value and significantly contribute to the operations of the departments where they work. The Corporate Work Study Program is a win-win for students and the companies. Students are gaining valuable professional and life skills that only come with the hands on experience they are receiving at organizations that partner with us. The work study program compliments the academic program and I am proud to be a part of this wonderful experience. I, just like the supervisor above, value the time spent mentoring and teaching our Verb students.

Verbum Dei students are well rounded young men who graduate with a high school diploma, an impressive resume, spiritual growth, social skills development, a caring heart and a positive outlook in life. As an adult, it is rewarding to work with and for a group of young men who want to succeed and accomplish the impossible.

If you haven’t visited the Nest, come on down…we are happy to host you and show you firsthand how Verbum Dei Eagles soar!