Minn. Minor League Baseball Team Goes Atheist For One Night

Melissa Block speaks with the St. Paul Saints' Executive Vice President and General Manager Derek Sharrer about the game that will be sponsored by the Minnesota Atheists. The team will go by the name "Mr. Paul Aints" for the game.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audi Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Tomorrow, the independent minor league baseball team the St. Paul Saints will undergo a kind of religious conversion. For one night, they'll become the Mr. Paul Aints. They're dropping the Saint and an S, creating a secularized version of their name for a game that's sponsored by the Minnesota Atheists.

The general manager of the Saints, soon to be Aints, Derek Sharrer joins me from Midway Stadium in St. Paul. Mr. Sharrer, welcome to the program.

DEREK SHARRER: Thank you very much for having me, Melissa. I appreciate it, and we're looking forward to being an Aint for a day, I suppose.

BLOCK: For one day - well, let's talk about that. This is the second year in a row that you're doing this. It's being billed as a night of unbelievable fun, the second coming. So what's the team going to do?

SHARRER: The events for the evening, basically, will be the usual fun that you get coming to a minor league ball game. Now, the Saints, very fortunately, have been known for being promotionally aggressive, I suppose, and occasionally walking the line; and sometimes being irreverent, which I guess in this case, is a term that really fits. There will be - hopefully - more runs scored by the Saints - or by the Aints, in this case - than the other team. But we'll have a different-looking jersey on.

BLOCK: Well, tell me about that jersey. You're making entirely new jerseys for this game?

SHARRER: Sure. And this is something that we do on more than just one occasion, every year. For example, for a military appreciation night, oftentimes we'll wear a camouflage jersey. Earlier this season, we did an event where we promoted the 75th anniversary of the Abbot and Costello "Who's On First?" bit. And our players actually - the first baseman wore Who, and the second baseman wore What, and so on and so forth. And the jersey...

BLOCK: Was I Don't Know on third?

SHARRER: I don't know. And they had question marks on their jerseys as opposed to numbers.

BLOCK: Any other atheist-related things that fans might notice at the game tomorrow night?

SHARRER: Actually, the promotional activities throughout the night won't be focused on religion or faith, or one's lack of faith. What the fun that will be had will be - more around things that people know as being unbelievable. The Loch Ness Monster, Sasquatch, the yeti. That's really where we - we tend to like to have things layered a bit, when we do our promotions. And that will be the approach with the night's activities.

BLOCK: Well, the Minnesota Atheists say the fans should not be surprised if they see a doubting Thomas at the stadium, questioning calls from the umpires.

SHARRER: That's certainly possible.

BLOCK: Yeah?

SHARRER: Yeah, no question there might be a doubting Thomas in the ballpark.

BLOCK: Could that extend to the players? Could they be the doubting Thomases themselves?

SHARRER: Well, I think you can almost count on that.

BLOCK: Yeah, that's every game, right? Not just tomorrow night.

SHARRER: Right.

BLOCK: Well, when you did this last year, were there any players who weren't happy about it; who felt that maybe this partnership with the atheists undermines their faith, in some way?

SHARRER: You know, we addressed that early on. When we initially decided to do the event, we went and sat down in the clubhouse with our team and explained what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how we would approach it. And certainly, that this wasn't the organization taking a stand or making a judgment one way or the other. We're not in a position to do that. We're a baseball team; we're an entertainment venue. And I think the players appreciated that.

There certainly were players on our team - and there are this year - that faith means a great deal to, and that their faith is very important to them. So we wanted to be sure that they were comfortable with what they were doing, and what they felt like they would be representing by wearing that jersey. And after having that conversation, our players were all onboard.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Sharrer, I was just looking at your website, and this was the headline: Saints Drop Season-High Fifth Straight Game. You're third out of four in your division. It sounds to me like you could use some inspiration tomorrow night, divine inspiration or otherwise.

SHARRER: Yeah, let's hope that the losing streak ends tonight on the road because certainly, asking for divine intervention on a night of unbelievable fun - probably not the best approach.

BLOCK: Mr. Sharrer, good to talk to you. Thanks so much.

SHARRER: Thanks so much for having me.

BLOCK: That's Derek Sharrer. He's general manager of the St. Paul Saints, which will become the Mr. Paul Aints for one game tomorrow, sponsored by the Minnesota Atheists.

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