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Deshler pastors bring fun to America's pastime
Tuesday marks an anniversary for the town of Deshler. Seven years ago Tuesday it was rocked by tornados. A series of four twisters ripped through Deshler leaving $5 million worth of damage in its wake.
The storm also claimed the life of one man when his garage collapsed on top of him.
It was the first tornado fatality in the state in 15 years.
The storm also destroyed Deshler's baseball fields. Since then, the community has rebuilt those fields and the games go on. In fact, they are a big attraction in town thanks in part to several men who make sure everyone has a great time at the ballpark.
For some people, baseball is almost a religion. In the small town of Deshler, going to the ball fields may seem a little like going to church, but that is because of the voices everyone hears from on high:
"Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to Tom's Field in Deshler, Nebraska for tonight's game between Deshler and Hebron."
That voice belongs to B.J. Fouts, also known as "Pastor" B.J. of the Trinity Lutheran Church.
"I enjoy being out here in God's creation. It is such a beautiful night. Beautiful night tonight."
Pastor B.J. volunteers his time announcing these games. But unlike at his church, here, he has to share the microphone. Brian Francik and Phil Nielsen are also talking about the good news – and good plays – taking place on the diamond. And they too are pastors in town and just as comfortable with a pitching mound as a pulpit.
"I get to work with some great guys and just have a lot of fun being a part of the game of baseball. It has just been a blast," said Pastor Francik.
"This is one thing we can do, we do not have to talk shop. We can talk baseball and just have a good time," said Pastor Nielsen.
And they do have a good time. They may preach from the good book, but their announcing is not always by the book.
"It would be kind of boring just to say, 'Number 27, Foul Ball.' So I try to liven it up a little bit, especially for the home team. Give them some nicknames. 'Bam Bam Baker.' A few things like that," said Pastor Fouts.
"B.J. is the expert at nicknames. I asked him the other night if he thinks of them ahead of time but he does not. He just opens his mouth and out they come, and then we have to clean up the damage afterwards," Pastor Nielsen said.
While the three pastors may not get the call up to the big leagues anytime soon, they are a hit with the fans.
"Yeah, they are really good. They really work good together," said fan Earlene Othling.
"My son will go home and talk about it, 'Yeah, it is kind of neat how they announce the names.' They maybe do not catch a lot of the fun stuff that they say, but us adults, we get it. We will smile about it and chuckle around, but they do a nice job," said fan Kurk Wiedel.
And while these pastors enjoy calling the game, their calling always has them looking to help people become winners in the much bigger game of life. To do that, they look to get their special message across to everyone and that is what brings them to the ballpark.
"It is a great opportunity for me to show people I am a regular kind of guy. I love sports like anyone else. Just an opportunity to build relationships with people," said Pastor Francik.
"People argue about religion all the time, but here we are getting down to what it is really about, and that is being friends in Christ together," Pastor Nielsen said.
"I could sit in my office and read theology books all the time, but out here, I am with people who need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ," said Pastor Fouts.
Pastors Brian, B.J. and Phil will keep teaming up for their unique announcing ministry, which "may" put people in their pews, but is certainly putting fans in the stands.
"I saw a couple here tonight and I said, 'What are you here for tonight? Who is playing ball that you are watching?' She said, 'We did not come to watch the ballgames. We came to listen to you guys,'" said Pastor Nielsen.
For guys who make a living preaching sermons, that's just what these pastors love to hear.
The pastors say they sometimes "rib" the coaches and even the players, but they do not said too much about the umpires. They said they do not want them to hold anything against the home team.
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