For Park Jung, heading into the HarbourCats’ baseball season is like staring down the precipice of a black diamond ski run.
Jung, who is used to going on blue and green runs, is now staring down a hill — a hill none have gone down before — as the team’s new chaplain. The position is the first in team and West Coast League History.
As team chaplain, Jung will provide moral, psychological and spiritual care to the team’s players. He’ll be present during home games, lead chapel meetings for those who wish to partake and will be available for one-on-one consultations. It’s a role he describes as a spiritual first-aid giver to help players through family troubles, break-ups or bad grades, and one he’s ecstatic to begin next month.
“I want to make sure the spiritual needs of these players are taken care of. The trainers and coaches will take care of the physical and intellectual skill set,” said Jung. “I want to make sure when they have any situation that they find might to be a little bit stressful or something that they can’t manage, that I’m there beside them … someone who is there to listen.”
While this is Jung’s first gig as chaplain for a sports team, the Victoria resident is no stranger to the position. After graduating from the University of Victoria, Jung went on to earn his post masters certificate in chaplaincy and spiritual care from ACTS Seminary of Trinity Western University in Vancouver.
Since then, he has served as a chaplain at many places including Glad Tidings Church in Victoria, Kairos International Prison Ministry and with the Better Life Integration and Support Society at William Head Institution, where he serves as an assistant chaplain to help inmates transition to halfway houses in the area.
A baseball fan, he’s excited to combine his love of baseball and passion for religion.
“I’m going to do a lot of listening and hearing what they have to say about their story and working it out with them so that when they’re ready to play, when they’re heading to the dugout, that their mind is in the right place — focused on the game,” Jung said. “I can walk alongside them and help the player to explore their emotions and help them to talk it out.”
According to Jonathan Hodgson, communications director and broadcaster with the HarbourCats, many players on the team come from backgrounds of faith. Having a chaplain they can go and talk to during a demanding baseball season, which sees players play roughly 60 games in 70 days, can help put them in the right mind-set to perform their best.
“A lot of players do have those beliefs, but the sport setting isn’t always the easiest place to talk about that and isn’t the easiest place to live out that part of your life. So we just want to provide this option,” said Hodgson, adding many MLB teams have chaplains as well.
“If this is something that a player believes in, we’re just providing them the option to have somebody to go to, somebody to support them in that way that they can talk to on a different level than they would talk to one of the baseball decision makers or one of the coaches.”
The HarbourCats season kicks off at Royal Athletic Park on Tuesday, May 30 at 6:35 p.m.