By Eric Jayne
There’s a lot of excitement in Minneapolis about the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star game coming to town in July, but perhaps an even better (and far more affordable) game will be played four days earlier at the other Minnesota Twin City across the river.
On Friday, July 11, the city of Saint Paul will be unofficially rebranded as “Mister Paul” as it hosts an atheist-themed minor league baseball game. The Saint Paul Saints minor league team will change its name to the secular-friendly Mister Paul Aints for the third year in a row in what is being billed as a “Night of Unbelievable Fun: The Third Strike.” It’s sponsored by the Minnesota Atheists and Freedom from Religion Foundation.
After losing the first two years, the Mr. Paul Aints will be going for their first win when they face the Kansas City T-Bones. There will be pregame tailgating, postgame fireworks, atheist-themed antics and even atheist-themed jerseys that will be worn by the home team players.
The specially designed jerseys (featuring a big red “A”) will be auctioned off during the game. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Family Place shelter, which serves area families without permanent housing. The front office staff will also cover the “S” in the Saints signage and hang banners promoting Minnesota Atheists and FFRF throughout Midway Stadium.
Some of the atheist “antics” are still being developed for this year’s game, but I know for certain that fans can expect an even louder and more skeptical “Doubting Thomas” in July. That very same character was quickly ejected last year after he demanded more evidence from the umpire after an inning-ending call.
At a time when athletes continue to publicly invoke their religious beliefs, and with the relatively recent injection of “God Bless America” replacing “buy me some peanuts and Crackerjacks” during MLB’s seventh-inning stretch, a brief introduction to this baseball team boldly choosing to partner with organized atheism might be in order.
Partly owned by comedian/actor Bill Murray, the Saints have gained national attention for their promotions and for the theatrics during the game. One of my favorite promotions was the Michael Vick dog chew toy that was given away during the NFL quarterback’s federal investigation for his involvement in a dog fighting ring.
Besides topical humor, there’s genuine tolerance and an open attitude within the Saints organization that falls directly in line with freethinking values. Mike Veeck, another part owner of the Saints, was heavily influential in the team’s signing of the first woman to play in minor league professional baseball.
In 1997, 50 years after Veeck’s father (Bill Veeck) helped bring racial integration to the American League by signing Larry Doby to the Cleveland Indians, Ila Borders made her first appearance with the Saints as a relief pitcher. Although she only played a few games with the Saints, she found success with two other teams in the league before retiring.
I refuse to make up some corny baseball metaphor about atheism, but I will say that the combo will be unbelievably fun. The tailgating will start at 4 p.m. in the stadium parking lot. The first pitch will be at 7 p.m. If you’re interested in winning the opportunity to toss out the first ceremonial pitch from the pitcher’s mound, visit MinnesotaAtheists.org/FirstPitch/.
Game tickets are available at SaintsGroups.com/. After you get through the Captcha screen you’ll need to enter the group password “Atheists” with an uppercase A. You might want to consider staying in town the next day and join other friendly heathens for a regional, one-day conference in downtown Saint Paul on Saturday, July 12.
Speakers include Susan Jacoby, Debbie Goddard, PZ Myers, Rebecca “Skepchick” Watson and others. For more details about the baseball game and conference, visit MinnesotaAtheists.org/conference/.
FFRF member Eric Jayne is president of Minnesota Atheists.