Rev. James Fitzmaurice, pastor of Christ the King parish in Westmere, Albany, is getting closer to fulfilling his baseball dream: visiting every one of the 30 major-league stadiums.

On his vacation in California this month, he's adding five more to his current record.

So far, he told The Evangelist, "I've been to 18 stadiums." When he returns from the West Coast -- having seen the Oakland As, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels, the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants -- "it will bring me up to 23 of the 30 ball fields."

With so much ballpark experience, the priest has developed some assessments.

"I tend to like stadiums that are in the middle of a city, where you can see the skyscrapers just outside of the fence," he noted.

Under that rubric, he said, "I really like PNC Park in Pittsburgh. You are right next to the river, and you see bridges and buildings."

He's also a fan of Camden Yards in Baltimore, where the Orioles play.

Guilty pleasure
Even though he's a Yankees fanatic, Father Fitzmaurice admitted, "I really like the intimacy of Fenway Park [where the Boston Red Sox play]. But I think they know I'm a Yankees fan, because they always sit me behind a pole!

"I root for the Yankees because that's who I followed growing up," he added.

The priest's love for the game in general and the Bronx Bomb­ers in particular started when he was a boy in St. James parish in Albany (now part of St. Francis of Assisi parish). The Holy Name Society there "ran a number of [baseball] trips each summer," he said, "and I always looked forward to them."

His affection for the Yanks really deepened due to his father's work.

"My Dad was a New York Central Railroad engineer," Father Fitzmaurice explained. "If he had a day trip to NYC, he would often bring me along and always point out Yankee Stadium when we went by. He'd get me excited about seeing it: 'Around the next bend, you'll see the stadium. Look for it!'"

His father passed away when the future priest was 11. "The summer before he died," Father Fitzmaurice recalled, "the whole family went [to New York City] and stayed in a hotel for the weekend. Dad and I went to a Yankees game while my Mom and sisters went shopping. It's one of my last memories of Dad when he was healthy."

As avid as he is about the major leagues, Father Fitzmaurice claimed that he is not an autograph hound.

"I don't go and seek them," he said -- but confessed, "I do have baseballs signed by Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Brett Gardner."

Among that trio is his favorite Yankee: "Derek Jeter, because of his baseball talent. But, also, as everyone says, he is just an overall good man with no outsized ego. He seems to be a great representative for professional sports."

Asked if he saw any connections between baseball and religion, the priest joked, "I pray a lot when I watch the Yankees!"

He added more seriously: "Baseball is a team sport where the members rely on the others, kind of like the Church community, where we rely on others to help us be successful."

On his priest's salary, Father Fitzmaurice often ends up sitting far from the field, as well as behind beams in Boston. One time, however, "a friend got some corporate box seats one day, and we sat in the first row behind the dugout," he said. "It was really special to see all the players up so close for the whole game."