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Play ball! Eat popcorn!

Play ball! Eat popcorn! - (21-03-2012)

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Photo: Tucson Padres mascot, the friar Kino Bambino, shows his approval of the new contract between the club and the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration to provide popcorn concessions at this season's home games at Kino Stadium. (Photo courtesy of the Tucson Padres.)

There's no crying in baseball.

But there is gourmet popcorn.

This month, the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration announced they have signed contracts to provide their sinfully delicious gourmet popcorn at ballpark concessions for the Tucson Padres and the University of Arizona Wildcats baseball clubs.

According to director of communications Kelley Baldwin, the contracts are the result of a lot of hard work by consultant Sarah Caniglia and a bit of divine intervention.

"We heard through the grapevine that the University of Arizona was looking for a new kettle corn provider after their previous one had dropped out," Baldwin said. "So Sarah began making calls and arranged a meeting. It turned out the university had already heard great things about our popcorn. We've provided popcorn concessions for thousands of fans at similar events, such as Major League Soccer's Desert Diamond Cup, so we're excited to add baseball too."

The Wildcat opportunity builds on an existing partnership between the Benedictine Sisters and the University of Arizona. Last fall, the two joined forces to launch Prayerfully Popped: Corn from the Cloister, a gourmet popcorn business that pairs the Sisters' small business experience with the opportunity for students to apply classroom concepts in the real business world.

"The Rule of St. Benedict instructs monastics to live a life devoted to work and prayer," Baldwin said. "This partnership allows the Sisters the opportunity to work around their prayer schedules and feed their monastic calling while students from many academic disciplines learn about the foundations of business practices while doing so under the tutelage of the Sisters who serve as models of proper business ethics and hard work."

The students and the Sisters have already gotten into the swing of things this spring, having begun providing popcorn for the Wildcats' home games at Hi Corbett Field. They'll begin popping for the Tucson Padres when the team opens its season on April 5.

"We are very fortunate and thankful to the Tucson Padres and to the Wildcats for their faith in us and look forward to a wonderful season of baseball," Caniglia said.

Baldwin hopes the Sisters' partnership with the business students, along with new relationships established with Tucson-area organizations, will serve as a model for other non-for-profit groups, especially religious communities.

"Many religious men and women are struggling to maintain their communities in this day and age. They have bills to pay, just like the rest of us," Baldwin said. "We hope the Sisters inspire others to think about new revenue streams, new ideas outside the realm of 'normal,' ways to revitalize their communities but do so in a way that is respective of their calling."

For more information about the Sisters' baseball partnerships, please contact Sarah Caniglia (Kuh NIG lee uh) at (520) 488-8959.