Phillies Pitcher Helps Freshman Ace Religion Project

Justin & Joe  2014-03-08-17-15-42 (2)W

When Devon Prep freshman and baseball enthusiast Joe Orsatti was asked if he’d like to spend a long weekend in Clearwater, Florida to see the Phillies in Spring Training, he couldn’t refuse.  His only hesitation was the classwork and projects he’d have to make up when he returned. He never imagined, however, that the trip to Florida would actually earn him an A on one of his assignments.

Before leaving for Florida Joe’s Introduction to Catholicism Teacher, Mr. Joe Lewis, had assigned a project to the class. Among the topic suggestions was “What is Catholic Athletes for Christ?” On his first day in Clearwater, Joe was hanging around the Phillies bullpen and briefly met Justin De Fratus, a 26 year old Phillies relief pitcher. De Fratus happens to be a devout Catholic and a member of Catholic Athletes for Christ.

When he returned to his hotel that night Joe realized an interview with De Fratus would be great for his religion project. The challenge was how to get his attention and permission. Two days later Joe was at the ballpark watching the Phillies play.

“In the 8th inning the Phils had a comfortable lead so I decided to go over to the bullpen and ask Justin De Fratus if I could interview him for a religion project,” Joe explained. “He wasn’t assigned to pitch that day so he was just chilling in the bullpen. He asked if I had the questions and I didn’t but I told him I could get them.  He said if you can get the questions I’ll give you an interview after the game.”

Joe called a friend from school to get the questions and was ready for the interview by the time the game ended. He met De Fratus at the dugout and they went out to the field where the pitcher signed autographs. “I was just standing next to him like I was a big deal,” the Phoenixville resident said. “Then we went to the dugout and I interviewed him for about half an hour.”

Joe is an avid baseball fan who dreams of one day being the general manager of a professional baseball team. Currently the ninth grader serves as the manager of Devon Prep’s JV team. He loves statistics and follows baseball closely. He was familiar with De Fratus long before meeting him in Clearwater.  “I love tracking the minor league systems so I was able to track his stats as he was coming up through the system,” Orsatti said. “I had seen his name in the news as a top prospect over the years so I was familiar with who he was. I knew he was in line for a middle relief role this year.”

Through the interview, however, Joe  saw a different, more personal side of the California native. De Fratus is involved with the organization Catholic Athletes for Christ (CAC) ( whose mission is to serve Catholic athletes and share the Gospel of Christ in and through athletics. The organization works to provide an integrated network of sports oriented clergy and lay people to serve Catholic athletes, coaches and staff in the practice of their faith.

De Fratus, who was raised Catholic, openly discussed the importance of his faith in all that he does and how his life changed when he took it more seriously. He told Joe, “Success on the baseball field will only take you so far and you are still going to have that empty feeling, or hunger for God. You’re never going to be fully fulfilled if you are not walking with Christ and mentally, I am a much healthier person because of it.”

“I was inspired by what he had to say,” Joe said. “He was very interesting. He talked about Mike Sweeny, a former Phillie from several years ago who is also involved in CAC.  Justin said Sweeny was voted the “nicest baseball player” by other baseball players.  Justin called him a modern day saint.”

“I love his views,” Joe continued. “He says it’s ok to go out and have fun, but you have to put God first. He said his faith doesn’t hold him back from having fun. It’s ok to watch today’s shows and listen to today’s music, hang out with your friends and do everyday things, just as long you don’t put those things before God.  That’s how he lives his life.”

When the interview ended and they said their goodbyes, Joe finally had time to reflect on what had happened. Not only did he have the opportunity to watch the Phillies in Spring Training, he actually interviewed one of the pitchers and was able to complete a religion project as well.

“It was a weight off my shoulders because it was one less thing that I had to do when I got back,” he said. “It was all so unexpected.  It was easily the coolest thing that has ever happened to me. To top it off Justin told me to tweet him my grade. I got a 97.”