Tom Burkey loved to play baseball and did so until he was 40.
The last year he played, he took two of his buddies to the hospital.
“I played baseball from the time I was 7 years old and I stopped playing because I was going to get hurt. I was 40 years old,” he said.
That was in 1975. It didn’t take him long to find a new passion.
Burkey, who had hunted since he was young, started shooting trap at some local clubs in his home area of Chambersburg. In 1978, he started shooting regularly and since then has shot at a minimum of 4,000-5,000 targets a year.
His baseball career did not lead to an invitation to Cooperstown, but Friday afternoon, the 79-year-old will be inducted into the Pennsylvania Trapshooting Hall of Fame.
When told of his nomination last fall, Burkey said, “I wasn’t going to accept it at first. I didn’t think I was worthy of it.”
Burkey said his election was not a result of his shooting skills, but for the work he has done for the sport, most of it at the Valley Gun and Country Club, home of the state trapshoot this week.
Sitting in the state association’s Hall of Fame room this week, Burkey pointed to the many photos of other Hall of Famers and said, “A lot of these guys who are in the hall of fame, were in the same situation.”
It was for his work and the number of years he has been doing it, he said.
“You don’t do it for (the recognition) but it is nice,” he said.
Burkey is about to begin his 25th year as the treasurer of the Amateur Trapshooting Association and the state association. He said he will give up the national position at the end of his 25th year, but will continue as state association treasurer.
He loves the area and its people as much as he loves the sport.
“Over the years, I’ve gotten to know this area very well, and I like the area. There are good people up here.
“I have been up here (110 miles from his home) every week for the last two months,” he said.
Burkey has been a jack of many trades, starting as an electrical contractor, which he did for 40 years, eventually taking over his father’s company.
He also worked in the insurance industry, was a bank director, he managed farms and owns real state.
It was his construction knowledge which led to his involvement in numerous improvements to the Elysburg facility over the years.
Most recently, he was the superintendent on the expansion of the practice area, located on the western end of the Elysburg complex. He also wears other hats, including helping with the classification at the state shoot.
“We like to think we run a good shoot and it’s been enjoyable working with these people,” he said.
Burkey got into the sport in a big way after hanging up his cleats. Although his name won’t appear on the lists of state champions, his accomplishments are nonetheless impressive.
He was an ATA All-American as a Veteran in 2001 and as a Senior Veteran in 2005. He has been on the Veteran and Senior Veteran State Teams every year since 2002. He has won numerous trophies at the Grand American since 1978, including placing as high as third. He has also won acclaims at the Eastern Zone, Southwest Zone, and Northeast Zone in both class and category in all three disciplines.
But Burkey, having registered 141,000 singles, 105,400 handicap and 89,150 doubles targets, and counting, said he is still learning.
In fact, he still takes lessons, most recently from a coach and longtime friend who lives in New Hampshire.
He has cut back on his shooting in recent years, now taking Monday and Tuesday of the state shoot off, but he has shot as many as 10,000 targets in some years, he said.
Burkey said many shooters like to say the youth are the future of the sport. He said that is true, to a point, but “you have to wait.”
Because of the expense of the sport, young shooters often leave it to get their education, raise their families and then get back into it at age 40 or older.
“It’s been enjoyable. I don’t play golf. I found out that I am a better shooter than a lot of my friends are golfers,” he said.
Both sports are expensive and both can be frustrating, and require focus to excel.
“But I’d just rather shoot, and I meet a lot of nice people,” said Burkey, noting that he has competed all over the United States and made friends everywhere.
This week, the baseball player-turned-trapshooter is where he loves to be, working and shooting with his friends.
Tom Burkey loved to play baseball and did so until he was 40.
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