Local theology teacher uses passion, “for the birds,” to connect with students through baseball

The best teachers have the ability to connect their coursework to life outside of the classroom for their students.
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 6:12 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - The best teachers have the ability to connect their coursework to life outside of the classroom for their students. For Chaminade’s Dan Stout, the ability to connect theology and baseball is second nature.

“Okay, we are going to look at your notes real quick,” Stout told his class.

Stout, a teacher of 20-plus years, asks questions to challenge his sophomore theology class.

“It makes me work harder, makes the class actually fun,” Student Isiah Shepherd said.

“I think he’s helped broaden my mindset,” Senior Will Mozeliak, explained. “Help me look at things differently. Not just have a basic opinion, but look at both sides.

The answers Stout gets in return often make him feel like he’s the one back in school for a lesson.

“I’m like you don’t want me to teach because you’re nailing it, in ways I couldn’t put it,” Stout explained. “Which makes sense. I’m a lot older, it needs to be said in a way they understand, so to be in those moments, the energy that comes from it.”

There was an extra buzz in the classroom on that day thanks to a “Spirit Day,” a dress-down day for students and faculty can dress down, in red.

“When it was red themed, his first response was you can wear a Cardinals jersey,” Harlan Sheehan said with a smirk.

Stout doesn’t hold back, admitting he’s the faculty member who makes sure Cardinals attire will be allowed.

“This [pointing to his St. Louis Cardinals hoodie] would have been what I would have been wearing regardless of the interview,” Stout said.

Dan Stout is a baseball obsessive. Posters and pennants on his classroom walls, including a newspaper clipping highlighting Nolan Arenado’s first homerun at Busch Stadium on Opening Day in 2021.

Baseball finds its way back in the classroom, in the class petitions.

“Amen,” Stout said. “I’m going to pray for a wonderful beginning of Cardinal season.”

“We do that sometimes, you have to pray for your team,” Student Will Mozeliak shared. “Make sure they are all good, and you want that win.

“It’s fun how he can incorporate baseball and theology in a class,” Isiah Shepherd said.

“I have guys who think I’m nuts as far as what they are learning in the classroom,” Stout explained. “They can’t get on board on these new perspectives in the world, but we’ve gotten along beautifully about baseball.

“I’m shocked about it. They might be aggressive about an opinion, but after they get to know me, let’s talk baseball, and that sort of goes away,” Stout added.

His dedication to students goes beyond the classroom, but in one case ends up on the baseball diamond.

“Earlier last year, I got to throw out the first pitch for the game, Cardinals game,” Student Isiah Shepherd shared. “He came to the game to support me, so even outside of the classroom, outside of the school, he’s always there. Just shows he loves me as a person, just supports me. Yep!”

While sitting in the school library, Stout said his love of the game is the generational impact. His face lit up, telling stories of his grandmother from Southern Illinois only agreeing to install cable when she learned it would allow her to watch Cardinals’ baseball. His great-uncle couldn’t see the World Series in 26 because he was in the seminary.

“He was disappointed the World Series was coming to town, and those were the words he used, not the Cardinals are in the World Series, but the World Series is coming to town, and I can’t go.”

It’s a perspective that gives him the grace to know not everyone will have the same level of fandom.

“To hear those stories, growing up, you know what choice do you have, you know, even if you have family members, not into sports, they can get into the culture of the team that’s been here for so long, that everyone they know is into it at some level,” he said.

Dan’s love for the Cardinals isn’t only from afar. He shows up and, sometimes, gets pretty close to legends like Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Adam Wainwright, and David Freese.

Thursday will be his 35th straight Cardinals’ home opener. It’ll be 16 straight for his wife, Sarah, and daughters Jessie’s 11th and Anna’s 8th.

“Of course I want them to win. It’s more fun if they win, but it’s the one day where it’s a holiday, beyond the game, I will enjoy it no matter what,” Stout shared. “I haven’t been to a game in how many days, I’m here with my family.

But not everyone at home likes baseball as much as Dad.

“I definitely like other things a lot more,” daughter Jessie said. “It is a lot of fun going to the games. I really do like going to the games.”

“I know how important he is to students, and he makes them feel welcomed and helps bring his material and the importance of it to a level that makes sense, and that’s a part of his everyday life,” Dan’s wife Sarah shared. “Versus being this kind of lofty theology that has its place, but it’s important to see it part of everyday life.”

“Seeing our teacher’s passion makes it a closer than teacher-student relationship. We become friends,” Student Harlan Sheehan. “When you see each other in the halls, you have more to talk about than just class.”