Former baseball standout’s journey to priesthood continues

I came across a feature by a national baseball publication that listed its top-10 prospects to never appear in a Major League Baseball game. The list included a number of players who suffered injuries along with some who just never developed to the level they were projected. Among those on the list was pitcher Ryan Anderson, a former top prospect of the Seattle Mariners. His name drew my attention because I saw him pitch for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Anderson’s career was derailed by shoulder problems.

Another name that stood out to me was Grant Desme. This former outfield prospect for the Oakland Athletics had all the tools to be not only a Major League player, but an all-star. He suffered a wrist injury, which limited him during his first two years of professional baseball following an outstanding college career at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Desme came back strong to hit 31 homeruns and steal 40 bases in his first healthy season in the minors. He followed up the 2009 regular season by earning MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League.

The 2009 season was Desme’s final year as a baseball player. He left the game at age 23 to pursue the priesthood. Desme’s story attracted national attention, much like former pro soccer player Chase Hilgenbrinck, now Fr. Hilgenbrinck, a priest for the Diocese of Peoria, Ill. Seeing Desme’s name on the list prompted me to seek an update on his formation.

Home for Desme, who was given the name Frater Matthew, is now St. Michael’s Abbey of Norbertine Fathers in Silverado, Calif. He is in his apostolic year, which requires work at St. Michael’s Prep. The school is located on the abbey property and houses approximately 75 boys. Frater Matthew, now 30, taught Latin and helped coach the baseball team in 2016.

Frater Matthew was an altar server during his youth. He grew up in an active Catholic family and the church was a presence in his life, but nothing during his upbringing pointed to priesthood over baseball. According to numerous blog entries, his prayer life and faith grew at Cal Poly.

The decision to leave baseball for a priestly vocation was supported by his parents. Frater Matthew has no regrets about retiring from the game. He said that walking away from the opportunity to be a husband and father was more difficult than giving up a career as a professional athlete. He still enjoys sports, including pickup basketball with other seminarians.

Frater Matthew continues on his 10-year journey to the priesthood. He remains a proponent for the value of baseball and being a member of the team. Serving as an assistant coach for the St. Michael’s Prep Archangels allows him to not only help young players develop their skills, but become good young men.