ST. LOUIS (RNS) There's controversy at the mound at Busch Stadium, and it has nothing to do with who's pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Last month fans started seeing a cross etched into the pitcher's mound at the stadium. Since then, the club has asked that the etchings stop.
"It is not club policy to put religious symbols of any type on the field or in the ballpark. When we became aware of this practice, we asked that it stop so that it would not be confused as an official expression of the club," the Cardinals organization said in a statement.
"We have fans of all faiths and various beliefs. We strive to provide a welcoming environment for all fans to enjoy baseball, regardless of their faith, politics, race, financial status or any other factor."
The team's general manager, John Mozeliak, said he learned of the images from media reports and immediately asked the grounds crew to halt the practice.
"I didn't ask for the reason behind it," he told the Post-Dispatch. "I just asked for it to stop."
Pictures show a small cross etched into the pitcher's mound, along with a No. 6 to honor Cardinals slugger Stan Musial. That caught the attention of one Cardinals fan watching from his home in New York City.
"I thought that ownership should take it down, I didn't make any demand; that was my opinion," said Michael Vines.
"For a baseball team that represents an entire community that brings the entire community together to be part of something that is much bigger than themselves individually and in that way it's much like religion. Religion does the same thing, but there are places for each and this is the public sphere."
After seeing it for the first time last month, Vines went back and studied other games.
"I went back and I reviewed previous games and I went to random games it was on all of them and I went to opening day when Jaime Garcia was on the mound and it was there too," he said.
Other Cards fans disagree, saying it's OK to have the cross.
"As a Christian, I loved that someone could express themselves and not worry about necessarily being politically correct," said Cardinals fan Todd Hannaford.
"If the players would like to have that there then I think they should be able to," said David Zdvorak, also a fan.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri said the Cardinals, "as a private organization … enjoy the constitutionally protected freedom to choose to display a symbol of religious faith on their private property, or to choose not to."