Omaha, Neb., Jun 26, 2015 / 02:02 am
In the state that's home to the College World Series, a new kind of series came to town on Father's Day.
Priests from two of Nebraska's three Catholic dioceses – the Diocese of Lincoln and the Archdiocese of Omaha – played each other in a softball game Sunday afternoon in an effort to raise awareness for vocations and to honor both spiritual and natural fathers.
The game, dubbed the "I-80 Collar Series" (Lincoln and Omaha are just 60 miles apart along Interstate 80), was sponsored by local Catholic radio network, KVSS "Spirit Catholic Radio". KVSS executive director Jim Carroll told CNA he was inspired to start the series after hearing of a similar game between the priests of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph and the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
He said he thought Father's Day would be the perfect time for a game honoring priests – especially since there usually isn't a College World Series game that day.
Highlights video courtesy of Father Andrew Heaslip/Diocese of Lincoln
"We said, you know, people are so crazy about sports, it's the College World Series time, so we thought it would be a great opportunity for the whole family to come out and do something," he said. "They could recognize their dads, but also our priests as spiritual fathers. So many times we don't get to see our priests having fun."
Carroll and his staff started by contacting priests who had been involved with the radio show to see if they'd be interested in a game. They asked parishes and Catholic bookstores and restaurants to help sell the tickets. As the day approached, the priests and the staff with KVSS held their breath and prayed that the weather would hold – Nebraska has seen an unseasonable amount of rain as of late.
It worked: Sunday turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day, with nearly 7,000 people showing up to fill Werner Park minor-league stadium in Papillion, Neb. Of the 7,000, more than 200 were priests and religious, and around 60 were seminarians. Nine buses, organized by priests, drove in from across the state filled with clerical sports fans. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, bishop emeritus of the Lincoln diocese, threw out the opening pitch.
"The energy was just incredible, there were so many families and people there, so it was really neat," said JD Flynn, director of communications for the Diocese of Lincoln. "Part of building Christian culture is just having fun in a Catholic context, so that's just what that was."
"The Omaha Storm Chasers usually play at Werner Park - and I would guess it had even more excitement than an Omaha Storm Chasers game," he added.