Father Burkhalter A “Most Valuable Priest” At I-80 Collar Series

Conditions were ideal Sunday afternoon for a softball game, but not just any ordinary softball game played on Father’s Day.
The Diocese of Omaha, decked out in Royal Blue, took to the field Sunday afternoon to face the red-clad Lincoln Diocese in a game of slowpitch softball with proceeds to go to vocations and the Catholic faith in both diocese.
The spotlight shined on all the priests taking part in the I-80 Collar Series, but the spotlight may have shined most brightly for our own Father Ross Burkhalter of St. Boniface and St. Bonaventure Catholic Churches.
Burkhalter was just one of three members of the Omaha Diocese team who was not from a parish in Omaha. He represented rural Nebraska well.
In the second inning, with a runner on second base, Burkhalter singled to drive in Omaha’s first run of the game. He then came around to score.
Then, in the fourth inning, he singled again, and came around to score another run.
In his final at-bat, in the bottom of the sixth inning, Burkhalter lined a single to left field for his third hit of the game.
Playing in the game, for Burkhalter, was truly a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
“This was great to see this crowd come out, all out here for vocations, for priests,” he told The Elgin Review as the game concluded. “It’s fabulous. It’s great to see so many people from Elgin and other friends who stopped in too.”
The outcome was the only disappointment, he said.
“We’re getting clobbered, but we’re having fun … I don’t get out and play softball on a regular basis. The fact that I’m able to get out there, run around, catch a ball and hit. I’m amazed that I did as well as I did,” Father Burkhalter said. He wore #3 on his back, the same number that the mighty Babe Ruth once wore during his heyday with the New York Yankees.
Burkhalter’s efforts on the field couldn’t stop the Lincoln Diocese from posting a lop-sided 31 to 17 final score, claiming the first-ever victory in what promises to become an annual event. Lincoln never trailed in the six-inning game, scoring seven runs in the first inning to take control of the softball game.
Burkhalter shared “MVP” honors on the Omaha team with Fr. James Weeder of St. Margaret Mary in Omaha. Each played received a trophy. Earning honors for the Lincoln team were Fr. Nicholas Kipper of Cortland and Fr. Mark Cyza of Nebraska City.
With an estimated crowd of 7,000 filling nearly every seat at Werner Park in Papillion, site of the game, organizers are hoping next year’s game at possibly Haymarket Park in Lincoln will draw an even bigger crowd. Burkhalter said, if able, he hopes to take the field next year.
As much as the game was the story on the field, there was just as much excitement in the stands. Spirited fans from both teams not only cheered on the players, but their Catholic faith as well. At one time, between innings, the two sides engaged in a cheering contest saying “We love Jesus, yes we do. We love Jesus, how about you?”
Before the game, Mark and Julie Dwyer hosted a “tailgating” event in the F3 section of the parking lot. Burkhalter had a pre-game meal of a hamburger and a brat. “Credit goes to the great training table Mark had for me before the game,” he said.
In attendance were many fans from the Elgin area. Also watching from the stands, 13 rows behind the dugout was his mother.
A great day, a great game and a great time was enjoyed by all.