(John Smoltz wows the crowd with his version of “I Wanna Be Your Dog”)

“It’s time,” writes the New York Times’ Murray Chass, “for baseball™s constitution to dictate separation of church and baseball.”

Let it said that Murray is never as smart nor as good looking as when he is agreeing with me.

The Nationals sold 3,000 extra tickets for their game with the Cardinals when they held Faith Night, charging an additional $10 for a postgame concert. Do the Lerners ” the family that owns the Nationals ” really need that extra revenue?

œThey understood we were being inclusive, not exclusive, Burnett said of the Lerners, who are Jewish. She declined to make any of the Lerners available for comment.

But what is inclusive about Faith Night?

Third Coast Sports, which began faith nights in the minor leagues five years ago, stages a Christian music concert before or after the game, and players present testimony to their belief in Jesus Christ.

That may be considered an unusual situation for a baseball team owned by the Lerners. By its nature, the faith-night atmosphere not only does not invite people of other faiths, but it also excludes them. Not even all Christians would be comfortable at the event because it is decidedly evangelical.

It is the kind of event that is popular in smaller minor league towns throughout the country, but it is also catching on in the larger cities of the majors. Third Coast™s Web site says that 15,000 attended the concert before a Texas game with Seattle, 10,000 saw a postgame concert in Cincinnati and 6,000 attended a pregame concert in Houston.

The Astros billed their evangelical event as Faith and Family Day.

œIt™s just a way for a team to reach people in another way, High said, meaning a different way of luring fans.

The idea has caught on in baseball because clubs want to sell tickets. That™s why Major League Baseball will never halt faith nights. Anything for a few dollars more. But it has no place in baseball. Baseball crowds are made up of people of all faiths and no faith. No segment should be singled out.

Third Coast™s Web site says, œThird Coast Sports has partnered with dozens of sports teams to organize, promote and execute successful events that seek to provide churches with opportunities for outreach and churchwide fellowship.

Does that sound inclusive? Outreach to whom? What its events do is give the company a foothold in baseball marketing.

Just what baseball needs ” peanuts, popcorn and proselytizing.