Previous Newsworthy Dads




By James Breig

Major league pitcher Bobby Keppel, who played for the Minnesota Twins during the 2009 baseball season, faced a big decision after his team was eliminated from the playoffs by the New York Yankees. As he does when faced with life’s changes, he drew from his Catholic faith.

Keppel had to choose whether or not to accept an offer to leave Major League Baseball to pitch for a professional Japanese club. Coming to the decision “was a long process,” he said. “I consulted lots of people.”

Production Scene

Former pro baseball players Mike Sweeney and Mike Piazza discuss faith and sports with host Bobby Keppel on the set of Faith Bowl III, which airs on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 7.

Before departing for Japan, Keppel did something else he had never done before – again stepping out in faith. He agreed to host “Faith Bowl III,” a television special in which he and two of baseball’s biggest stars talk about their Catholicism, their family life and being a man in the 21st century.

The pitcher had to step up to host the interview with retired catcher Mike Piazza and hitter Mike Sweeney because the original host couldn’t make the taping.

“I was at a retreat in California with Catholic Athletes for Christ,” he explained. “They asked me to be part of the special as a guest and then as the host. I didn’t hesitate; I wanted to do it. If they had enough faith to ask me, I decided I should have enough faith to get the job done.”

The half-hour special, which will be aired on EWTN on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 7, is a co-production of Catholic Athletes for Christ, Family Theater Productions and the Knights of Columbus.

During the program, the two Mikes – prodded by Keppel’s questions – make some serious points about being Catholic sports stars. For example, Piazza says, “What is a true man? Anybody can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a parent. A man means being a good husband and a good father.”

Sweeney notes at one point: “There is no better feeling than going to Mass with my wife and family.”

In an interview with Fathers for Good, Keppel talked about his wife, Suzanne, and their two little girls. During the couple’s engagement, he said, he rediscovered his faith by observing his future wife’s behavior.

“I was a cradle Catholic who didn’t know the gift of faith until I saw it in my fiancée,” he declared. “I had a conversion experience as I went through an engagement program at church. I realized what it means to be a husband and father. I read the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the first time; it’s a gift to our faith.”

As a baseball player, he admitted, “I didn’t go to Mass all the time. I went to the Baseball Chapel services, which were Protestant, but they weren’t a challenge to me.”

As he grew in his Catholic beliefs, he continued, “I knew what was wrong in my life. I like to say that I ripped the calluses off and felt what sin was again and learned how the graces poured out in Confession” can heal a person. “I haven’t missed Mass on a Sunday or holy day since.”

On the Faith Bowl program, the two older baseball stars talk about their own deepening faith.  Sweeney shares how he prays the Rosary with his wife and children. Piazza notes, “I am thankful to God to be blessed with a wonderful wife and kids. We’re taught [the notion of] inconsequential sex as men. That’s being a coward. A real man is a faithful husband.”

During the course of the show, the two also make these points:

• “Being a man of God in this culture is tough” – Mike Sweeney
• “You never know the impact you’re going to have” on children – Sweeney
• “There’s strength in weakness” – Mike Piazza
• “Let kids have fun playing sports” – Piazza;
• Don’t be “afraid to do good” – Piazza.

Keppel hopes that viewers of “Faith Bowl III” will be encouraged to “ask questions about their faith, seek the answers and get involved in their Church.”

As he prepares to go overseas with his family to pursue his baseball career, he noted: “Being a Catholic isn’t cultural; it’s a gift to be loved and shared. I hope people who see the show will be encouraged to live their faith.”

(For information about obtaining a DVD copy of “Faith Bowl III,” call 800-299-7729.)

James Breig is a veteran editor and reporter for the Catholic press.