Story by Jon Kipper
PAPILLION (SNR) - In the secular world, when an event or a moment captures the attention of many, it’s said it went ‘viral.’ So, one could certainly say last Sunday’s I-80 Collar Series softball game went viral. Angela Copenhaver, Spirit Catholic Radio’s Lincoln development director prefers a different term, however. She said the game went “Holy Spirit.”
More than 7,000 fans showed up to see the Diocese of Lincoln face off against the priests of the Archdiocese of Omaha. In the end, Lincoln won easily, but that wasn’t really the point. The game, located at Werner Park in Papillion, was set up for several reasons, —first, to support vocations across both dioceses. But Copenhaver said another reason for the game was to get people out to support their local priests.
“You could come, live your faith, take your family, have some fun, and actually do something good for our community and, of course, our religious sisters and our priests at the same time,” she said.
Some of the highlights of the game included Emeritus Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz throwing out the first pitch, a religious sister from Omaha umpiring third base, and the Capital City Clergy (Lincoln’s official nickname) beating the Omaha “Padres” 31-17.
The game had rules a little bit different from what most people are used to. Outs didn’t really matter as every inning ended after the 10th and final hitter was done batting. The team lineups also alternated back and forth between odd and even number innings in order for all 20 priests to play on both sides.
Coach of the Lincoln squad, Father Jeffrey Eickhoff, rector of St. Gregory the Great Seminary, had the idea to put two of his fastest players in the 10-spot to try and clear the bases before every inning.
The plan worked, as both priests who batted 10th, Father Mark Cyza of St. Benedict Parish in Nebraska City and Father Nicholas Kipper of St. James Parish in Cortland, were both named co-MVPs of the game.
“There was a little bit of strategy there; I definitely had the idea of fast guys at the end who could avoid an out,” Father Eickhoff said.
The Lincoln priests were able to have four practices before the game, but, according to Eickhoff, the priests have been practicing for quite some time.
“One of our preceding bishops (Bishop Flavin) used to be a big baseball player, so he said we’ll have community recreation during our retreat and it’ll be softball. He’d even ump the games,” Eickhoff said.
That tradition continues to this day.
As for the dioceses’ newest tradition, both sides look forward to another edition of the I-80 Collar Series next year, although the date and location have not yet been set.
Related news: New Spirit Catholic Radio stations up and running in western Nebraska