Staging promotions to get fans to comee to the ballpark is a baseball tradition. But while Thursday's game between the Atlanta Braves and Florida Marlins may have looked like any other big-league contest. But as CBS News correspondent Jim Acosta reports, the promotion at Atlanta's Turner Field was a big-league first.
More than 3,000 evangelical Christians were in the stands for the first "Faith Day" held by a major league team. It was a unique doubleheader — a baseball game followed by a Christian rock concert featuring Braves' star pitcher John Smoltz.
Says Faith Day fan Jenna Wilson: "For us this is just a way to hopefully be around other Christians."
After the final out, fans who had bought a separate ticket gathered in the outfield seats for a post-game show of Christian spirit.
Smoltz delivered what some sportswriters have dubbed his "Sermon on the Mound."
"I get applauded. I get booed. None of which has made me any happier than knowing and having a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior," he told the audience.
Smoltz acknowledges that not everyone who follows America's national pastime is Christian.
"That's not for me to decide," he says. "The executives of Major League Baseball and the Atlanta Braves chose to have it. Personally I am glad they have."
The event's organizers realize some baseball purists may prefer a separation between church and ballpark. But the fan-faithful say it's not about baptisms in the bullpen.
"It's not what I refer to as ambush-evangelism," says Faith Day founder Brent High, who came up with the idea four years ago while working as a salesmen for the minor-league Nashville Sounds.
Since then, the concept, starring promotions such as Moses bobblehead dolls, has expanded to nearly four dozen cities. But until Thursday, it was strictly minor league.
For High, bringing Faith Day to "The Show" was realization of a lifetime dream.
"As a little boy, I dreamed of making the major leagues a little differently than with Faith Days. I actually wanted to play center field for the Atlanta Braves — and here we are standing in it," he says.
Faith Day may be about to expand to other pro sports. Its backers hope it can turn out to be a marketing idea made in heaven.
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