Missouri Baptist lay leader spearheads Cardinals’ Christian Family Day event
By Bob Baysinger
May 25, 2004
|Judy Boen, a member of West County Community Church, Wildwood, and a devout St. Louis Cardinal baseball fan, worked hard to get Christian Family Day 14 years ago. The day has become the largest group sales event for the baseball team. Pathway photo by Bob Baysinger|
They’re all delighted about what is happening in St. Louis every summer at the St. Louis Cardinals’ Christian Family Day.
The Cardinals are joyful because the special day is bringing a lot of people into the ballpark. Boen is pleased because an increasing number of people every year are hearing a clear presentation of the Gospel and responding to a public challenge to make Christ their personal savior.
Christian Family Day began 14 years ago when a fire began burning in Boen’s heart – a fire to tell others about Christ. She is a member of West County Community Church, Wildwood, a Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) and Southern Baptist Convention church pastored by former MBC evangelism director Phil Hunter.
The desire in Boen’s heart led her to the Cardinals with an idea about a special day at Busch Stadium.
“I was standing at my kitchen sink, washing dishes,” Boen said. “Al Denson (a Christian music artist) had been bugging me to do the national anthem at a Cardinal game. He knew that I knew some of the players and that my daughter babysat for some of them.
“I thought it would be cool to have Al Denson sing the national anthem and have some Cardinal players give their testimonies after the game. I called the Cardinals and they told me they had never heard of anything Christian and baseball that went together.”
The following January, Boen wrote a letter to the Cardinals, renewing her proposal. She received no response until after the baseball season had opened. Finally, the Cardinals called and wanted Boen to come to Busch Stadium and share exact details about her plan.
At the meeting, a spokesman for the Cardinals said the club was willing to give the idea a try but made one thing clear – there would be no preaching.
They gave Boen $30,000 worth of tickets and told her to go to work. Little did she know some of the obstacles that were ahead before the first Christian Family Day became a reality.
First, it was the fear of the ballplayers.
“Some took the challenge; others wouldn’t do it,” Boen said. “Players felt Andy Van Slyke (a young Cardinal outfielder at the time) had been traded by manager Whitey Herzog for sharing his faith. And catcher Darrell Porter had been badgered for leading Bible studies. Pitcher Todd Worrell told me he would be glad to speak anywhere, but not at Busch Stadium.
“Whitey Herzog was a good baseball manager, but he didn’t have much sympathy for Christians. He used to tell the players to go out and get drunk if they had had a bad game. He told the Christians to take their Bible and do whatever.”
Hudler takes a stand
Rex Hudler, a Cardinal reserve, finally took a stand.
“He told the other players to stand up for what they believed or (else) not to call themselves Christians,” Boen said.
Boen met another apparent roadblock when she returned the money to the Cardinal offices for tickets she had sold for the first Christian Family Day. A woman representing the Cardinals expressed disappointment when “only” 3,800 tickets were sold. Boen said Cardinal publicity director Marty Hendon walked into the office during the discussion and reacted with glee after hearing that 3,800 tickets had been sold.
Hendon was happy because the Cardinal group sales averages from 25-30 tickets.
Still Boen was faced with the “no preaching” edict. But that problem took care of itself in the form of pitcher Scott Terry, one of the sold-out Christians with the Cardinals during the early 1990s.
At first, Boen was disappointed. Hudler, who had challenged the players to be bold, challenged young people attending the first Christian Family Day to “clean their room and obey their parents.”
“My heart was dying,” Boen said. “I thought, ‘Where is his boldness.’”
Terry, however, sprinted onto the field from the clubhouse runway, holding his baseball glove. He boldly shared the plan of salvation, using his glove as a visual aid. Several indicated at the end of Terry’s presentation that they wanted to accept Christ.
The numbers attending the annual event have grown every year. An estimated 18,000 remained after the game to participate in post-game Christian Day activities in 2003, with more than 100 standing to acknowledge acceptance of Christ following a Gospel message by pitcher Cal Eldred.
According to Boen, Hendon, a Jew, is still a strong supporter of Christian Family Day. He originally urged Boen to call the special day “Judeo-Christian Family,” but Boen resisted.
Christian Family Day is now one of the highlights of the season for the Cardinals, with full support from the baseball office.
“The baseball players are like gods to the Cardinals,” Boen said. “Whatever they want, the Cardinals do. If Albert Pujols says do this, they do it.”
A Cardinal Family Day bonus for Boen is the blessing she receives from working to get 3,700 underprivileged St. Louis children to the game. One of things given to the children are baseball cards, designed by Boen’s daughter, Christe, featuring photos of Cardinals who are Christians on one side and their testimony on the other.
“These are kinda like throwaway kids. Nobody wants them,” Boen said. “For them to get a chance to go to a game and stand on the field at Busch Stadium, shake a player’s hand or stand with them during the National Anthem, to feed them and love on them a little while and give those baseball cards to them, it makes the day well worth it.”
One of the Christian Family Day disappointments for Boen has been the lack of support by most churches.
“St. Louis churches do not support what we’re doing,” she said. “The Lutheran churches, the Presbyterian churches, the Catholic churches … we can’t get them involved. I talked to a youth minister at one Methodist church and he couldn’t understand the need for his youth to bring their friends to Christian Family Day. He asked me how he could know if ‘his own kids were saved.’
“If it wasn’t for the Baptist churches, Christian Family Day wouldn’t be anything. I think Baptists get involved because they understand the meaning of evangelistic outreach. They understand the importance of bringing their non-Christian friends to a game to hear a Gospel presentation.”
The 2004 Christian Family Day is scheduled for July 3, with Joe White, director of Kanakuk Kamps, Branson, scheduled as the featured speaker. Music will be provided by “New Creation.”