SALT LAKE CITY — America's pastime has been part of Bishop John C. Wester's life since he was old enough to chase a ball. And, as a fifth-generation San Franciscan, he fondly remembers the days of family outings to watch legendary Giants star Willie Mays.
"Looking back, I didn't realize the greatness I was witnessing. We'd see him make plays as if he was from another planet," Bishop Wester said. "No human could make that play, and he'd make it."
As with most of us who played little league, a Willie Mays career wasn't in the cards for young John Wester, but his memories in left field have never dimmed.
"I was never a happy player. I was a nervous player," he said. "I would just pray the ball wouldn't come to me. I'd say "Please Lord, let it go to the right fielder. I loved the uniform. I remember getting my mit and rubbing it with olive oil, putting a ball in it and putting it under my pillow. The whole culture of baseball that I enjoyed."
Bishop Wester's love for sports has filled his life with memories.
"There are connections between sports and life and between religion and sports," he said. "Sports taught me that it really is a team effort that we make each other look good. I think sports brings families together."
Bishop Wester is the bishop of Utah's 150 thousand Catholics. He was appointed by Pope Benedict in 2007. Not long after his little league years, he made a major-league decision that carried with it a price: A life in the priesthood would mean a life without a wife and family like the one he grew up in. It was a tough decision.
"At one point I came close to leaving the seminary figuring I would like to have my own family, the beauty of family and the gift it is and someday, grandkids," he said. "But, I have a large family now, a spiritual family, if you will. It's not the same. It is a sacrifice, but when God calls you he makes sure you have all the blessings you need."
Baseball has been one of those blessings for the bishop, and twice in recent years, his beloved Giants have won the World Series. One of those championships came at the expense of the Texas Rangers on a night when Bishop Wester was on assignment in Texas.
"They picked me up at the airport but I knew they were playing the game. We went to a restaurant and the whole night I was dying to get the score," he said. "So I excused myself to go to the men's room and slipped off to the bar to watch the TV. The waiters were watching with me."
Eventually, Bishop Wester returned to his table and continued the dinner conversation.
"The waiters ran back into the room and told me the score! I said 'great, 3-0, we are ahead!' I forgot I was in the state of Texas and everybody was looking at me."
Major League Baseball begins the second half of its season on Friday. It's quite likely that Bishop Wester won't be watching any games. But don't be surprised if you catch him checking a score or two on his phone. After all, he was a Giants fan long before he became Utah's top Catholic.