The Rev. Larry Young is the pastor of Our Lady's Church at Medley's Neck, a Catholic church in Leonardtown, Md. He's also the organizer and first baseman for the DC Padres, a baseball team of priests and seminarians. The team faces off against varsity high school teams to raise interest in the priesthood. Its next games are Aug. 26 and Sept. 23.

Why a baseball team of priests?

It's kind of a novelty for priests to be playing full-on, fast-pitch hardball. I've never heard of any other team quite like this. Father Larry Swink and I were talking baseball, and we came up with this idea for a team. When we went looking for players [among] all the priests and seminarians in the area, we found an abundance of talent and experience. Soon a roster emerged of about 15 guys, about half priests and half seminarians. Nine of them played some college ball, and the rest played at least in high school. The idea was to promote the vocation of the priesthood in a fun, upbeat atmosphere. People have responded well to the idea. A thousand or so folks have come out to our games so far. We've got some nice uniforms now and a website,

What's the message that you promote at your games?

We tell people how much we love the priesthood and what a great vocation it is to lay one's life down in service of our bride, the church, in imitation of our Lord. It's a very deeply satisfying vocation for those who give themselves to it completely. We're young guys and we're doing it, and if we get enough of us out there and show folks that we're all-American guys and we're doing this and we love it, hopefully we'll get other young men thinking about it, to consider whether or not the Lord is calling them to the priesthood.

Many baseball writers describe the sport in almost religious terms. Do you get any sort of spiritual satisfaction out of the game itself?

To me, it's kind of a foretaste of heaven, where we're just having fun. We all know that in this life there are so many serious things we all must deal with. It is wonderful to gather as the family of God and just enjoy this game that is so deeply rooted in our American heritage. There's something magical about baseball and the feeling and atmosphere that's created in a ballpark. Everybody just seems so happy. And that is very refreshing.

Are kids surprised that priests can be cool?

Yes, I think definitely one of the best parts of this whole thing is they see young priests and men studying to be priests in a different context. People are just thrilled and delighted when a priest gets up to the plate and rips a double into the corner --they just go bananas. It's neat for them to see us doing something that's so normal.

At your core, what is one of your defining beliefs?

Plain and simple, that God exists. That he wants to be involved in our lives. That his ways and his plan for our lives will lead to our greatest happiness and human fulfillment.

- Liz Essley