July 15, 2022

Pastor will live ‘bucket list’ dream: singing national anthem at Indians’ game

Victory Field in Indianapolis will be the backdrop for Father Rick Ginther as he sings the National Anthem before the Indianapolis Indians’ game on August 4. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Victory Field in Indianapolis will be the backdrop for Father Rick Ginther as he sings the National Anthem before the Indianapolis Indians’ game on August 4. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

A year after driving a Mustang on a racetrack at more than 100 miles per hour, Father Rick Ginther will get to cross off another dream from his bucket list when he strides onto Victory Field before the start of the Indianapolis Indians’ game on Aug. 4.

As he stands near home plate and looks up into a crowd of thousands of baseball fans, the 71-year-old pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis will then begin singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“I was a little surprised and flattered to be chosen,” he says before sharing what he thinks he’ll be feeling in that moment when he sings the national anthem of the United States a cappella.

“Oh, my gosh, this is really happening! OK, breathe, breathe. Remember support, support. Plant your feet where you want them. Hold the microphone and just relax and do it. That’s what I’ll be thinking. I’ll get into performance mode and just totally focus on what I’m doing.”

He shares the story of how he’s about to live this dream—“when you’re a singer, you have your bucket list, and this is one of mine”—using one of his other gifts, storytelling.

“I have a parishioner named Chris Swinefurth who we spent a number of days with last summer, out in Las Vegas. I never thought I’d go to Las Vegas because I have no interest in gambling. I’m the kind of guy who goes to a poker game, and I’m the first one out because I have no poker sense.

“So we went out there, and I got to do some things I’ve never done. Driving a Shelby GT Mustang on a track. Big muscle car. I got up to 115 [miles per hour] on the track.

“During a conversation, Chris said, ‘This is so out of character for you, driving a sports car with a helmet on, on a track.’ I said, ‘Oh, yeah, there’s a part of me that’s always wanted to do these kinds of things.’ He said, ‘Well, what are some of the other things you’d like to do someday?’ ”

Father Ginther told his friend that he has always wanted to sing the national anthem before a game, in front of a crowd. Swinefurth started thinking about possibilities and asked Father Ginther earlier this year, “How about the Indians?” Father Ginther said, “Really?” Swinefurth said, “Yeah,” and he began to set his plan in motion.

“He took my singing voice off of one of our Masses that we livestream and record, made a demo tape, took it down there or sent it to them and they said yes,” the priest says with a smile. “So suddenly I’m singing the national anthem at Victory Field. I’m not a big baseball fan, but it’s one of the best parks in the country. It’s just fun to be there.

“I said, ‘I’ll tell my family about it.’ He said, ‘Oh, no, no, no, we’re going to invite the archdiocese!’ That’s when I thought, ‘What have I let him do?’ But that’s how I got into it.” (For ticket information about Archdiocese of Indianapolis Night at Victory Field, visit the website, baseball.ollindy.org)

‘This is really cool!’

The stories continue, focusing on some of the bucket list items Father Ginther has done: traveling recently to Germany to witness the Passion Play in Oberammergau, visiting Rome for the first time in 2006, graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 2001 with a master’s degree in liturgical theology.

“I walked right to the bookstore and ordered my ring, and then spent an entire year paying for it,” he says.

There’s also the memory of being on the Great Wall of China in 1989.

“Oh, my gosh, I’m standing on the Great Wall! This is really cool!” he recalls. “That was an amazing moment, to stand on the Great Wall and realize it’s a man-made artifact that can be seen from space, and also that it’s over 3,000 miles long.”

What made it even more special to him is that he had read about the Great Wall when he was an eighth-grade student at the former St. Andrew School in Indianapolis, and he had wondered what it would be like to see it in person.

He also thinks about his eighth-grade year in terms of music—singing with several thousand Catholic school children during the Catholic Youth Organization’s Songfest in the Butler University fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The lure of singing and performing also led him to the leading role of Harold Hill in The Music Man when he was a senior at the former Latin School in Indianapolis. And there were the vocal lessons he took and the choirs he sang in while he was in the seminary at the Athenaeum of Ohio in Cincinnati.

“I like to sing songs that move the soul and move the heart,” he says. “If it has a connection to classical music, I really like it, but I also like really upbeat music. I still sing some of the songs from the ‘50s and ‘60s in my head.”

As he prepares for singing at the Indians’ game, the national anthem will be a constant in his head. Before he steps onto the field, he will do something else that is a constant in his life. He will pray.

“I’ll just say, ‘OK, Lord, let me do this well, and let it stir the people.’ ”

He smiles again at the thought of being at Victory Field, singing before the crowd.

“I’m definitely looking forward to this.”
 

(For ticket information about Archdiocese of Indianapolis Night at Victory Field, visit the website, baseball.ollindy.org. The Indians’ game starts at 7:05 p.m. on Aug. 4. Father Ginther will perform the National Anthem at 7 p.m. The gates to Victory Field open at 6 p.m.)

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