Before the pulpit, Billy Graham’s passion was baseball. His hometown team remembers.

CHARLOTTE, NC (Tim Funk/The Charlotte Observer) - Charlotte-born evangelist Billy Graham and his love of baseball was honored Sunday during the Charlotte Knights' "Faith and Family Night" in uptown's BB&T Ballpark.

Graham himself was not there – he's 98 and rarely leaves his mountaintop home in Montreat – but his grandson, Will Graham, spoke up on the elder Graham's behalf.

Long before he felt called to be a preacher, Billy Graham wanted to grow up to be a Major League Baseball player.

"Since there were few things in life that I loved more than baseball, as a young man I dedicated myself to the sport and hoped that my passion for the game would lead me straight to the major leagues," Graham wrote in "Nearing Home," one of his books. "But baseball was not God's plan for me. Nevertheless, He taught me how to integrate these important components into service for Him."

When Graham was a freshman in high school, he got to shake hands with his hero, baseball legend Babe Ruth, who had come to Charlotte to play in an exhibition game.

On "Billy Graham Day" – a Sunday, of course – the minor-league Charlotte Knights played a game against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.