The 2015 Major League Baseball season is the 42nd for Carl Loewenstine. The Cincinnati native has canvassed the country many times over, mostly for the Los Angeles Dodgers, in search of pitching, hitting and fielding talent. These efforts during his 34-year Dodgers’ tenure contributed to 10 division championships and two World Series victories.
Although Loewenstine has had much to be grateful for in his career, he is most appreciative of his Catholic faith. The former Lutheran learned about Catholicism from EWTN programs and entered the Church with his wife, Gayle, in April 2000.
Loewenstine, who now works as a part-time special assistant for the Pittsburgh Pirates, spoke with Register correspondent Trent Beattie as the new Major League Baseball season was getting under way.
How do you think the Dodgers and Pirates will do this season, and what do you think of the overall picture for the National and American Leagues?
The Dodgers have a new regime that has been very active in remaking the entire ball club over the past few years. Even though you always have to look over your shoulder for the San Francisco Giants, I expect the Dodgers to win the National League West again this year.
The Pirates are a good, solid ball club in a tougher division, the National League Central. They have the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs to compete against, so winning the division will not be an easy thing, but it is possible.
Overall, I think Seattle has a very good shot at representing the American League in the World Series this year. With pitchers like Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma and hitters like Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz, I think the Mariners are in a very good position to take the American League West and then do well in the playoffs.
You’ve been an MLB scout for many years. What are some of your top professional memories?
There are so many things to review since I started with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1973. I was able to work for legendary scout Tony Lucadello. You couldn’t ask for a better start than that, since he did such a fine job finding players who did well in the majors.
Some other top memories are centered on players I recommended who turned out to be very useful to the Dodgers, the team I joined in 1980. Infielder Dave Anderson, outfielder John Shelby and right-handed pitcher Tim Belcher come to mind. They were all on the Dodgers’ World Series-winning team in 1988.
I also think of being presented with the Scout of the Year Award at Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings in 2005. To be honored by your peers like that is special, because they know exactly what goes into doing the job. Then, in 2012, I was given a Legends of Scouting Award.
After scouting for the Dodgers full time for 33 years, I went into semi-retirement before last season, when I worked part time for them. This season will be my 42nd overall in baseball, and it will be spent with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a part-time consultant.
Vin is someone who has persevered over the years through some very tough times. It is amazing enough to keep working well into your 80s, but having to face the death of your wife at an early age and then the death of your son, also at an early age, is certainly character-building. It brings to mind the fragility of life and how close we are to eternity.
Rich’s story is very similar, in that it really brings eternity right down in front of you. Rich’s daughter died at 17, and that really changed his heart, especially after “The Chicken Runs at Midnight” story at the end of the 1997 World Series. He returned to the Catholic faith of his youth, and it has made him a more selfless and content man.
I should also say that, now with the Pirates, I still have some great Catholic connections. Every time I was in Pittsburgh for a game during the past few years, I would see Neil Walker at the stadium Masses. They have those available for players and other workers on both the home and visiting teams, so as a Dodger, I would be at Mass with Neil. He’s a generous young man whose parents I’ve known for years.
Even aside from both the Dodgers and Pirates, there are numerous examples of players who practice their faith. I was once at a Sunday Mass in a beautiful church in Detroit. I looked up and thought, “Hey, that’s the Tigers’ catcher, Alex Avila. … And that’s his dad, Al Avila, assistant general manager of the Tigers.” Whether it’s church Masses or stadium ones, you will find baseball players there.
You’re a convert from Lutheranism. What prompted you to make that change?
I was in Miami in 1999, and it happened to be Good Friday. I called a Lutheran church and found out their services would be at 7pm, the time of the baseball game I was to attend. I still wanted to remember this important day in Christianity, so I went to the Lutheran church early that afternoon to pray. However, the doors were locked, so I went to a Catholic church instead. The doors of that church were opened, which was metaphorical for the “doors” of the entire Catholic Church being open to me.
I started watching EWTN and learned so many things from the televised Mass, the specials on the saints and the regular shows like The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi and Web of Faith — the original version. I probably learned more from Web of Faith than from any other show, and I have a particular fondness for Father Robert Levis. He’s an old-school, tell-it-like-it-is guy, which is much appreciated.
I had a pretty good understanding of the Church before becoming a full member, but actually living as a Catholic is even more tremendous than knowing the facts of faith. I have been to so many beautiful churches across the country and in Canada. Houston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Montreal are some of the cities with spectacular churches.
Do you find authentic sacred architecture to be a help for prayer?
I certainly do. You can pray anywhere, but it’s just easier to pray when everything around you speaks of the glory of God. When a church building is well-ordered, you can’t help but think about the blessedness of heaven and how we should prepare ourselves for eternity through prayer, reception of the sacraments and good works.
I find the Latin Mass to be especially well-ordered and focused on heavenly things. It has a quieter tone and slower pace that point to the timelessness of the liturgy. The sacrifice of Calvary from 2,000 years ago is made present to us now, just as if we were there with Jesus at his death.
Another thing that helps to get you centered on Christ is silent retreats. Probably the best thing I ever did was to go on a retreat at a Kentucky monastery. Other than chanting the prayers of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, no one talked the entire week. This absence of chatter filled me with the peace of Christ and taught me so much about prayer.
It’s common when praying to do all the talking, but that can only take you so far. You have to listen to God’s response. God doesn’t talk in an audible voice, and his response is not always immediately obvious. This is why silence is so essential to prayer: It’s like a shortcut to getting a response, because you’ve removed so many distractions, and your ears are open to God’s desires for your life.
You’ve gone through an experience with cancer. Has suffering helped you to pray better as well?
Yes, I think prostate cancer and osteoporosis have both contributed to more selfless prayer. Pain reminds us of our weakness and mortality — two things that really underscore the importance of prayer. The pain is also a reminder that others are going through similar things, so I try to help people who are dealing with cancer and bone pain.
I truly appreciate how the Catholic Church knows the value of suffering, not only in the sense that it encourages us to pray, but that we can actually use suffering itself as a prayer. We can “offer it up” to God, as Christ did with his suffering on the cross. This is what St. Paul writes of in Colossians 1:24, and it is a profound indication of how the Church is one body, not just a loose grouping of individuals.
When the members of the Church are filled with the Holy Spirit, as the apostles were at Pentecost, suffering is not seen as a burden, but a joy. The apostles had been very fearful before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but afterwards, they actually rejoiced that they were accounted worthy to suffer for Christ.
St. John Paul II was a super example of suffering for Christ, especially at the end of his life. I had the honor of seeing the Pope in 1988, when former Dodgers’ owner Peter O’Malley took his front office staff to Rome. That was inspiring, but my appreciation for John Paul II grew as his life drew to a close. He courageously accepted and endured sufferings, which prepared him for eternity and encouraged others to do the same with their sufferings.
Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.