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ND Softball

Brian Ching provides support for Irish softball

| Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Fr. Brian Ching was always destined to spend time on the diamond.

After graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 2007 and entering the Moreau Seminary, he made his way from Deacon to Director of the Congregation of Holy Cross’ College Formation Program and now serves as Rector of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

One of his lesser known roles, however, is serving as chaplain of the Notre Dame softball team.

“I grew up just a few minutes down the road from Shea Stadium, now Citi Field, so baseball has always held a special place in my heart,” Ching said. “… I am indeed a Mets fan and have many fond memories of summer days at the ballpark.”

Softball doesn’t stray too far from that lifelong passion, so it made sense when Director of Campus Ministry and men’s basketball Chaplain Pete McCormick asked Ching to consider taking on the duties of the softball chaplaincy in 2016.

Ching says that the relationship between him and the team is a relaxed one, with him offering more spiritual support than actual advice on their technique.

“As softball chaplain I try to make it to one of the games during each homestand,” Ching said. “I am just there to offer a quick prayer and be a supportive presence — though I do always make a point of having the holy oils on me just in case. I also try to have Mass for the team every now and then and join them for a couple of social events during the year. I also make myself available if anyone just wants to talk through something.”

Aside from softball and the Mets, he has also enjoyed some other Irish sports moments of note, and was there in-person for two very significant ones.

“During my time at Notre Dame as a priest and student I’ve been blessed to be at a few special moments,” Ching said. “Two that stand out would be being on the field for the “Bush-Push” game in 2005 and Notre Dame Men’s Basketball 5-overtime win over Louisville in 2013.”

That game against Louisville was the longest regular season game in the history of the Big East, as the Irish had not yet moved to the ACC. Down 56-48 in the final minute, then-Irish guard Jerian Grant scored 12-straight points in the final 47 seconds of regulation to send the game to its first overtime as Notre Dame knocked off the eventual national champion Cardinals (though their title was later revoked).

As for the “Bush-Push” game, that contest between Notre Dame and archrival USC in Notre Dame Stadium lives in infamy in the minds of many Irish fans. The Trojans were undefeated, coming off back-to-back national championships, on a 27-game winning streak and boasting reigning Heisman winner Matt Leinart as well as that year’s eventual winner, Reggie Bush.

With Notre Dame leading 31-28 with seven seconds left, Leinart attempted a quarterback sneak on the goal line but was stuffed, until Bush pushed him through an opening and into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. That push was technically illegal per NCAA rules at the time, but was not called, and the Trojans escaped with a controversial win.

As for his Mets, Ching has another special memory, one shared by many New Yorkers at a time when they needed hope.

“Like many Mets fans, my most iconic memory would probably be the 8th inning home run hit by Mike Piazza on September 21, 2001,” Ching said. “That game was the first sporting event in New York after September 11 and that moment provided just a little sense of joy in the midst of very painful days.”

As for the softball squad, Ching said he cherishes what the group does every year around the holidays.

“One of my favorite traditions with the softball team is the annual Christmas celebration,” he said. “It’s nice to just see everyone a bit more relaxed and the white elephant gift exchange often brings about a bit of hilarity.”

It’s unclear how this softball season will play out, but regardless Ching will be supporting the team as they look to get back to the NCAA Tournament after a coronavirus-induced hiatus.

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

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