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 Lehigh Valley IronPigs

Bonding over Faith: 'Pigs Players and Fans Connect on Faith Night

June 12, 2024 - International League (IL)
Lehigh Valley IronPigs News Release

The typical conversation between an IronPigs player and a fan usually consists of one of the following: "Can I have a baseball!" or "Can I have an autograph!" or "Can I have a picture!". But when the Lehigh Valley IronPigs hosted Faith Night on June 7th, the conversations between 'Pigs players and fans grew deeper and more meaningful.

IronPigs pitchers David Buchanan, Taylor Lehman, and David Parkinson led those conversations when they held a forum for discussion on faith with IronPigs team pastor Ed Hanna following the game on Faith Night. "Just to see fans outside of the field was awesome. To hear the questions they asked and how our faith relates to baseball was really nice," Taylor Lehman said.

Aside from players passing by fans pregame, postgame, or briefly during the game, the chance for players to truly show their true selves to fans are few and far between. Having a forum where fans and players can be linked by a commonality makes for singular moments.

"Having the chance to go out there with fellow teammates who I share this relationship with, is special just for that bond" David Buchanan explained. "But to have that kind of turnout was awesome. When we were talking, I'm looking out to see the attention the fans were giving, and they were listening very intently and very curious for our answers."

While Buchanan had mentioned that he would've been happy if 15 or 20 people showed up, the postgame event ended up have over 100 attendees as the stands were filled multiple rows back, behind the IronPigs dugout. For the actual game earlier that night, more than 45 churches were in attendance, for a total of 1,900 tickets distributed between those churches.

Building those connections with the community on topics outside of baseball is a crucial thing for IronPigs players. While they might be playing for the IronPigs for 150 games a season, players strive to be defined by more than what their performance on the field is.

"Being able to have that connections with fans is special. There's 30 different stats on the screen at any time, that's how we as players tend to get classified. We're so classified and defined by numbers, it's nice for people to see us in street clothes and when the game isn't going on. That this is who we are 365 days a year, before the game, after the game. And that then this connection through faith is who we try to be during the game," said Buchanan.

During the conversation with fans after the game, the IronPigs players had the opportunity to open up about their journey with their faith and how it may have evolved or helped them during their baseball careers. While many questions during a regular media interview can be answered with classic baseball cliches, all of these answers were from the heart.

"Honestly, it was a little bit out of my normal comfort zone. I was a little nervous at first, but once we get going, it was really good," Lehman commented.

Even after the question and answer segment was done, the players took time to talk with players on a more personal level as attendees came up to express thanks for the players taking their time to attend.

"There was actually a kid who came up to me and pulled out a picture of him and myself down in Clearwater in 2014," Buchanan explained. "I looked like a little baby and he was a younger kid then. And now he was grown up and getting all emotional that he got to see me again. He was in tears and it was really special because he didn't know if he'd ever see or meet me again. It really pounds in the fact that you never know the impact you'll have on somebody. It could have just been that he was at the Major League Spring Training game back then and I was the one player that stopped to take a picture. For that kid to have a picture that was 10 years old and for it to still have meaning it's special. It shows that you can have a lasting impact on people. That's why good game or bad game, you have to be who you are. If I had a bad day back then and I was mean to that kid, that would've been his memory of me. Instead, taking that picture stuck with him and brought us this moment on Faith Night. It grounded me, making me realize that we can have a huge impact."

"Afterwards, the fans just coming up to us and talking to us and introducing themselves was nice," Lehman said.

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