CONEY ISLAND — While the academic year is at an end for students in the Diocese of Brooklyn, the best and the brightest were offered one more round of applause for their success Wednesday, June 28, during Catholic Schools Night at Maimonides Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones.
The 62 valedictorians and salutatorians, clad in red T-shirts, were recognized at the annual event, having their names announced as they received medals prior to the Cyclones matchup against the Jersey Shore BlueClaws.
They also got the opportunity to see their school administrators and priests take to the diamond for the “Collars vs. Scholars” softball game. Dressed in black jerseys, the priestly Collars fell early to their counterparts, dressed in white, and eventually invoked the “mercy rule,” losing 11-1.
“It doesn’t matter. None of this matters,” Deacon Kevin McCormack, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn, said on the field. He served as head coach for the Scholars. “It’s only about the kids — and the hot dogs.”
The celebration was sponsored by DeSales Media, the ministry that produces The Tablet. Students were also recognized for their contributions to Tablet Jr., a monthly insert in The Tablet newspaper, as well.
The first pitch of the Cyclones game was delivered by Deacon McCormack. While he has taken to the diamond for Catholic Schools Night in games before, this was his first year serving as superintendent of schools for the diocese.
Among those in attendance was Bishop Robert Brennan, grinning as he shook hands with each student after they received their medal.
“Tonight is about fun. It’s so good looking out at the stadium right now and just seeing all the families that are here,” Bishop Brennan said. “Just enjoying being together and having some good, clean fun.”
With both her parents beaming, and snapping numerous photos of her in her “MVP” medal, Michelle Ebesunun described how she admittedly is not a baseball fan, and that it was her first time at Maimonides Park. She recently graduated eighth grade as valedictorian of Salve Regina Catholic Academy, and will be attending Nazareth Regional High School in East Flatbush in September.
“I feel good, and I feel happy for the support from my friends and my family to be here right now,” she shared.
While the night was clearly about the students, the “athletes” were devoted to the competition, sprinting and sliding, determined to win and to make the experience thrilling for the children.
Maureen Hayes, assistant principal at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Academy, took to the batter’s box with booming cheering from the stands.
“Half of them are my relatives,” she said with a grin after crossing home plate and adding a run for the Scholars during the second — and final — inning. “Half the people in this stadium are related to me.”
This was Hayes’ first time playing in the contest, and admitted she had “a lot of fun.”
“It’s really nice for [the kids] to see the priests, principals, and teachers just relaxing, having a good time and just enjoying being part of a Catholic school system,” she said.
Richard Diffendale teaches seventh grade social studies and eighth grade religion at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Academy, and it was his second year playing in the match. Last year, he struck out swinging twice. This year, he went “2-for-2, 2 RBIs, and I feel a lot better.”
“It is great for us to come together to celebrate Catholic education. All the priests, all the teachers, and all the families here represent a belief in the importance of Catholic education, and the sacrifices that are made by our parents,” said Father James Kuroly, president and rector of Cathedral Preparatory Seminary.
Father Kuroly played alongside the other priests in the game, and while clearly disheartened by the Collars’ loss, found joy in recognizing the true meaning of the night.
“Today we celebrate the kids for their accomplishments,” he said. “It’s a way for us to thank our parents for the sacrifices. It’s a way for us to celebrate the teachers, who give day in and day out, but also the priests who are a spiritual presence for these men and women.”