By Larry Livingston, senior writer
Father Mike Rieder is a modern Renaissance man. He’s a pastor, a seasoned international traveler and a diehard New York Mets fan (more about that to come). He’s also a treasured member of the Unbound community.
“I’ve been a sponsor a little over 20 years,” Father Mike said. “A friend of mine who I love and trust invited me to join. It has changed my life, the whole experience of being connected with Unbound. Then, becoming a [Unbound] preacher, I felt like, ‘Wow I made the team!’ But, honestly, I was then told I’d been part of the team the whole time.”
Indeed he was. I met Father Mike 10 years ago when I started working at Unbound. At the time he was the chaplain at McGann-Mercy High School in Riverhead, New York, and every year he took a group of students on a mission-service trip to one of our projects in El Salvador.
But it was when he joined our preacher team that I really got to know Father Mike. It didn’t take long to learn that we shared a love of baseball and, especially, of our respective local teams – the Mets for him and the Kansas City Royals for me. Soon we began joking about how great it would be if the Mets and Royals played each other in the World Series.
Father Mike was destined to be a Mets fan. He was born on April 23, 1962, the day the new franchise won their first game. Since then he has been with the Mets through thick and thin, including the 1969 “Miracle Mets” World Series. But by the time I met him, there had been more thin than thick. It was a condition that, as a Royals fan, I knew all too well.
Neither the Mets nor the Royals had won the World Series since the mid-1980s, and the confluence of events required for these two hard luck franchises to meet up in the Fall Classic was roughly equivalent to the average person’s chances of winning the lottery while being struck by lightning during a Martian invasion.
The years went by. Father Mike became a pastor on Long Island and continued to preach for Unbound whenever he could. He always did a wonderful job sharing his experiences with the faithful and inviting them to become sponsors. Now, he also serves on the Unbound governing board.
As for baseball, just when it began to look like the idea of our two teams meeting in the postseason would remain nothing but a punchline, something weird and wonderful happened. In the fall of 2015, both teams won their respective league pennants.
There was going to be a Mets-Royals World Series.
Naturally, Father Mike and I had to come up with a bet. What we settled on was that the loser would have to sing a song of the winner’s choosing in front of the Unbound community at the annual preachers conference in June.
Long story short, the Royals won. There’s no point in rehashing all the details, such as the Mets’ atrocious defense or the Royals’ record-setting four comeback wins or the relentless pressure of the Royals bullpen. There’s no reason at all to even bring up those things. All that matters is that the Royals won. (Did I mention that?)
Good sport that he is, Father Mike didn’t hesitate to pay off his bet when the moment came. And on June 9, 2016, at 12:30 p.m. CDT, in the lunchroom of our headquarters in Kansas City, Kan., he did just that by sharing an enthusiastic – if somewhat creative – rendition of the Leiber and Stoller rock ‘n’ roll classic, “Kansas City,” with the Unbound community.
“Getting up and making a fool of myself in front of the crowd was wonderful, because I come from a big family,” Father Mike said. “I’m the second youngest of nine and we loved each other that way, by ribbing each other. So I felt like I was just home with my family. I had a ball.”