Alumnus serves as deacon, former professional baseball umpire

Aug 22, 2023
The Newman Univeristy Jets baseball team celebrates after a win.
The Newman Univeristy Jets baseball team celebrates after a win.

The one word to describe Richard “Rick” Roder’s journey since graduating from Newman University in 1986 is “unique.”

Upon graduation, he immediately took a job at a plastics factory in a town west of Wichita. 

“I wanted a quick way to raise $3,000 so I could attend the Joe Brinkman Umpire School in Cocoa, Florida,” Roder explained. “I guess my love of baseball ran deep, and I had always wanted to develop my skills as an umpire. I finished in the top 10 of that class of 125 and was placed into the minor league baseball system.”

Roder started his career in the Pioneer Rookie League in Montana and Idaho and finished in the Triple-A American Association in 1996. In between, he worked all levels of professional baseball, umpired in 28 states and worked a few Major League spring training games. He also served as an instructor at the former Brinkman-Froemming Umpire School, where he honed his teaching skills, handling the rules instruction for a classroom of about 100 students. Additionally, Roder co-authored a baseball rules textbook that continues to sell copies to umpires around the world.

Deacon Rick Roder (Courtesy photo)
Deacon Rick Roder (Courtesy photo)

After being released from baseball, Roder was hired to author the history of his home diocese in Sioux City, Iowa, as it turned 100 years old. 

That led him into working for his parish as a teacher and entering into deacon formation.

“After ordination in 2010, I served as a pastoral assistant, Catholic school religion teacher, and director of religious education, and taught in the deacon formation program,” he said.

Today, Roder works as DRE for Mater Dei Parish in Sioux City and serves as deacon in All Saints Parish in Le Mars, Iowa. 

Wherever his journey has taken him, Roder is able to stand on the strong foundation Newman provided him with, including from his time on the baseball team. As a result of his gratitude, he recently made a donation to the university. 

“I was inspired by the unique approach offered by J.T. Klaus, who may have been inspired by my creative ways to drive him nuts when he was my R.A.,” Roder said. “He sent me a $20 bill with a challenge to either keep it and do some good with it or return it with some ‘sugar on top’ to benefit someone at Newman. Investments made in God’s work always return with more than what was originally offered. I was happy to, in a small way, accept and meet his challenge.”

Roder hopes the gift helps students, even if just a little bit.

“I also hope it inspires me to do more to support my alma mater and the good people who work and learn there,” he said.

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