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.
Wrestling: Mifflinburg's Walter, SCA's Lane place at Greco nationals
The calendar might say July, but for many high school wrestlers the summer months are a perfect time to hone their skills in anticipation for the upcoming prep season.
American Legion Baseball: Season comes to an end for Line Mountain
Line Mountain catcher J.P. Lenker knew right down to the inning how much baseball he and his teammates have played in the last three weeks.
Danville's Gronsky signs with Cardinals organization
It’s been a whirlwind past couple of weeks for Jake Gronsky, and it’s about to get headier for the Danville High grad.
Legion baseball: Line Mountain pulls out 12-11 victory at Region V tournament
Line Mountain manager Sam Strause exited the home dugout at Schute Field at Mansfield University looked at his home fans and said “I feel sick.”
Susquehanna's Hotaling named a preseason All-American in football
Susquehanna University senior placekicker Spencer Hotaling has been named a USA College Football Division III First-Team Preseason All-American. In addition, senior wide receiver Denzell Walker was named an Honorable Mention selection on offense.
Softball: Danville Bandits 18U squad qualifies for World Series
Most of them will be juniors or seniors when the fall scholastic year rolls around here in just a few short weeks, some are even in college already. But for a brief moment back on July 5, Danville Bandits manager Tony Fritz could’ve sworn he was staring at a bunch of Little League kids with the way his team was excited having earned a spot in the Stars and Stripes Salute 18U Tournament championship game.
SU's Hotaling earns preseason All-America honors
Susquehanna senior kicker Spencer Hotaling has been named a USA College Football Division III First-Team Preseason All-American.
Baseball: Crosscutters' Fultz no stranger to big leagues
He reached the pinnacle of Major League baseball in 2002: the World Series.
American Legion: Line Mountain tops Hughesville in Region V tournament
Kellan Masser wore a blank game face as he made his way off of the mound, cracking the slightest hint of a smile as his teammates leapt from the dugout to high-five him.
Motorsports: Dewease scores 300th career win in rain delayed Summer Nationals
There’s nothing like having the World of Outlaws come to town and breaking a winless streak.
American Legion: Line Mountain falls in opener of Region 5 tournament
Line Mountain manager Sam Strause was quick to note that Dickson City may be one of the top teams in the Region V Tournament.
Southern Columbia's Blake Marks named Daily Item Male Athlete of the Year
In an era of athletes focusing on one sport, Blake Marks is literally a man for all seasons.
Mount Carmel's Ali Varano named Daily Item's Female Athlete of the Year
While her junior year as a whole was successful, Mount Carmel’s Ali Varano wasn’t necessarily satisfied with how it turned out in the end, especially in track and field. The speedy Red Tornado was just shy of a qualifying time in the 300 hurdles and missed out on going to the PIAA Track & Field Championships by literally the slimmest of margins: .03 seconds.
Motorsports: Hodnett claims win at Williams Grove
Greg Hodnett has been struggling a lot at Williams Grove Speedway this season.
Baseball: Danville grad Gronsky adjusts to minor leagues
Friday was “Zombie Night” at Silver Cross Stadium in Joliet, Ill., which made for an interesting first home game for Slammers second baseman Jake Gronsky.
Baseball: Danville grad Gronsky makes pro baseball debut
Jake Gronsky stood at second base, just as he’d done hundreds of times before — yet never before — and gave in to a relieved smile.
- More Sports Headlines
- Wrestling: Mifflinburg's Walter, SCA's Lane place at Greco nationals