Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Mercy Dedicates Baseball Field To Archbishop

By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Staff Writer | Published April 22, 2004

While he couldn’t promise them graces to turn around their less than stellar season, Archbishop John F. Donoghue pitched blessings and encouragement to members of the nascent Our Lady of Mercy High School Bobcat baseball team, as they named their playing field in his honor.

“I am very happy that here at Mercy High School, the baseball program has been a part of the athletic life of the school since the very beginning. I also know that from a time of great challenge during the first year, the Bobcats have gone on to remarkable progress and achievement in local high school baseball,” he said. “I wish I could say that by naming our field in my honor, special grace will now come from Heaven, and make you undefeatable in the future. Unfortunately, God is always fair, and in the competitive athletic field, I tend to think that He rewards those who work the most, and play the hardest.”

A ceremony to dedicate the field in his honor was held the chilly and grey spring afternoon of April 13, as students and parents, bundled up in their school sweaters and jackets, trickled out to the small section of bleachers to watch that afternoon’s game against Heard County High School. The archbishop beforehand kept warm in the press box above the grass baseball field with cement block dugouts, which is surrounded by trees beyond the school campus. School chaplain Father Paul Burke said the school had been looking for something to name after the archbishop and decided to dedicate the field in his honor. “A little bird told me he had a great love of baseball and is a Braves fan. We would not be here if it weren’t for his great dedication and commitment to the school,” said Father Burke.

Under the archbishop’s direction and leadership, OLM and Blessed Trinity High School in Roswell opened in the fall of 2000, after three elementary schools were founded in 1999.

The archbishop, wearing a long black coat, spoke a prayer of dedication, assisted by Deacon Ray Egan, in which he asked God’s blessing on the team and that the school’s sports would help renew body and mind. The school began with a junior varsity baseball team, among other sports, and fielded a varsity team in 2001. There is also a girl’s fast pitch team that plays in the spring.

Baseball coach Lee McDermott, who is also the director of admissions and development, and Father Burke presented the archbishop with a jersey with “Donoghue” and number one printed on it as well as a plaque to be displayed by the field. The archbishop, who played shortstop with the Catholic Youth Organization growing up in Washington, D.C., then threw an honorary pitch to team captain Ralph Woolfolk.

The archbishop expressed his love of the game and the school.

“In the hearts of many, perhaps most Americans, there is only one singularly American sport, the sport of vacant lots and picnic grounds—the sport of gentle-persons—the sport of symmetry and logic—the sport where the human spirit is magnified by the force of rules and statistics—and the only sport so gracious as to give the ball to the defense. Of course, the sport is baseball.”

Putting a positive spin on their growing pains, he said that their faith would strengthen them in all things—including their desire to be the best baseball team around.

“If naming the field after me makes you remember anything, remember this—that I complimented your school on all the hard work you have done, on all that you have already accomplished, and use that memory as a springboard for the future. Because the future will come, and without a doubt, some years from now, those of you who are playing on this field today, will be returning—as parents maybe, or as supportive alumni, and certainly, as boosters still of the Mercy High School Bobcats.”

“I am most grateful, that you have decided to honor me, and to preserve my name in both your past and your future, by calling this playing field, Donoghue Field. I will never forget your kindness, and I pray that the Lord will reward you, for the goodness you have shown me.”

In an interview by the dugout, McDermott, a founding staff member of the school, expressed his gratitude to the archbishop.

“Being so appreciative for what (the archbishop) has done for us here I thought it would be appropriate that we put his name on something lasting, and (with his) being a big baseball fan,” he said, wearing the team’s red and white uniform.

McDermott said it is a blessing for him to work at Mercy and establish its baseball program.

“Being a product of parochial school, this is something I believe in, Catholic education. I just thank God for being able to be here and part of the baseball program as well,” he said. “I certainly feel God has blessed me with this opportunity without a doubt. I got this offer shortly after my mother passed and I certainly feel she had a hand in it. Maybe she was talking to God and nodding to him saying this is the place I need to be.”

The coach said the students are proud of the team and work very hard. “They’re great kids. I can’t say enough about their work and their dedication. We are certainly taking steps in the right direction.”

Woolfolk, a senior who will play baseball in college, said that growing with the team has helped him develop as a person.

“It’s made every aspect of life here at the school better and definitely you can walk down the hallways and know you’re a part of something good. The coaches think about winning and losing but more importantly they care about making us better people,” he said. It’s been a great learning experience “to watch the team grow, joining together and watching my coaches concentrate on getting the program established from nothing. That’s what athletics and school should be all about.”

Athletic director Bill Schmitz, who is in his first year at Mercy, reiterated that while the varsity team’s record is “not fantastic” the experience they’re gaining as they play against bigger schools is invaluable in terms of the success of the program. And they’re “continuing to work on the fundamentals and basics of the game to become a fundamentally sound team.”

He graduated from St. Pius X High School, Atlanta, and also loves working at Mercy. “It’s a fantastic community. It’s a unique community … You have to be involved to understand how outstanding it is. We’re very pleased.”

He said the school of 238 students added their golf team this year. Other school sports are football, cross-country track, cheerleading, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, swimming, tennis, soccer, and track and field.

Parent Amy Faber, who works the concession stand for home games, is another cheerleader for the school, as she feels it’s a really positive environment for her son, Matt, who is also on the baseball team. “It’s like a family. Everybody cares about him, knows him by name. It’s a very positive environment for boys” because there are a lot of good male role models, said Faber, who has a daughter who went to St. Pius. “I think it’s the best kept secret on the south side.”

When her son gets discouraged with losses, “he comes home and looks at me and goes ‘oh mom.’ They just go back out there and try again,” she said. “The coach is great … He just wants them to grow. He takes raw talent and teaches them and makes them grow into a team.”