At Christmas, I gave my son tickets to see the Mariners play the Kansas City Royals in Seattle last Saturday (The catch: I go, too). What a game! It had 26 hits, lead changes, homers, slides to home plate, and through it all, the Mariners won. Surely, divine intervention was in play.

I like baseball because not all the action is on the field; to me, that’s why it continues to be an iconic American pastime. For three-and-a-half hours, families, friends, neighbors and die-hard baseballophiles put aside worries and differences to enjoy an outing with 20,000 of their closest friends to eat peanuts and do the wave. More than that, however, folks around me are having conversations about things close to them: a school play, an upcoming summer vacation, the yard and the dent that showed up after their kid borrowed the car last week.

God built into our human nature the capacity to handle a multitude of challenges, but the flood of internet and nightly news of violence, political posturing, racial injustices, homelessness and the pandemic certainly tests those boundaries. We’re tempted to spend an inordinate amount of time in heated arguments, trying hard to convince others to see things as we do. I have yet to hear where anyone has convinced another to change their mind that way.

Perhaps we need more events like baseball: opportunities that display our commonalities, warmth, humor and politeness with someone new sitting in the next seat. In the context of evangelization, it doesn’t have to — perhaps better that it’s not — be a fellow Catholic at a parish event. Evangelization works when we find a common and safe ground that builds trust over time to establish relationships, where it’s safe to ask and answer questions, express viewpoints and be open to new ideas. And if not evangelization, the opportunity to connect with kindness and respect is an example of serving God’s purpose of caring for others.

So serve up your own “baseball game” this summer: Invite the neighbors to a backyard movie or to clean up the park and share a beverage, to join a morning dog walk group, or to see the Emeralds, the Volcanoes, the Pickles or the Hillsboro Hops.

Play ball!