From the pitcher’s mound in the middle of a baseball field, he made eye contact with his catcher, wound up and threw an excellent pitch — and the crowd cheered!

For the fifth annual Catholic Schools Night at Dodger Stadium on May 11, Archbishop José H. Gomez enjoyed a memorable moment in the limelight when he threw a ceremonial first pitch before the 7:10 p.m. game against the Florida Marlins. For this avid, lifelong fan of all sports, it was exciting and unforgettable.

“It was beautiful,” the archbishop said of the experience following his ceremonial pitch. “I was a little nervous because I haven’t played baseball in a long time, [but] it’s really emotional to be where so many great players have been — like Orel Hershiser, Fernando Valenzuela and so many other great pitchers.”

Archbishop Gomez has loved sports since he was a child growing up in Monterrey, Mexico, including basketball, soccer, baseball and tennis.

“That was what I did when I was growing up, play sports — I went to school, spent time with my family and I loved playing sports,” he recalled with a smile.

The benefits of participating in sports are many, including strengthening both the body and the mind, and even supporting our faith, said Archbishop Gomez.

“I have learned a lot playing sports, especially being part of a team, working together with other people, learning to win and to lose sometimes,” said the archbishop, adding that it’s important to “always be optimistic and positive. It helps spiritually and humanly to be a good team player.”

Students, teachers and parents representing more than 30 schools from across the archdiocese also attended this year’s Catholic Schools Night. About a dozen joined the archbishop out on the field before his pitch, lining up along the first-base line, where they were introduced one by one by the stadium announcer as each of their happy, smiling faces was projected onto the DodgerVision jumbo screen.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles launched its Catholic schools program in the 1850s. Today there are currently more than 250 Catholic elementary and high schools located across Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.