Dozens of Great Bend Panther baseball and softball players were on hand Thursday to see the outline of a 5-foot baseball rising above the entrance to the Great Bend Sports Complex. Before the teams faced off against the Hoisington Cardinals, they participated in the unveiling of a metal sculpture created by Bruce Bitter of B&B Metal Arts in Hoisington.
The top off the ball was all that could be seen at first, because the rest of the 25-foot-long sculpture was covered. Bitter described the project, encouraging people to walk around the sculpture and view it front and back. The sun reflecting off the stainless steel at various times of day, or lights shining on it at night, will bring out different colors.
With the words, “Let’s unveil the sculpture and play ball!” the dark plastic wrap was removed and Bitter’s vision of baseball was revealed.
The sculpture tells the story of Great Bend baseball and softball. Beneath the suspended ball stand seven players – three girls and four boys, all in the act of batting, pitching or fielding. “They are actual Great Bend Panther players depicted in metal art,” Bitter said. “Every figure is part of Great Bend’s baseball story.”
Mayor Mike Allison said funding for this sculpture was provided by the Thelma Faye Harms Trust. That is the same fund that paid for the fountain in the courthouse square and other city projects over the years, he said. “Linda Marmie and Mark Calcara had the foresight to think of this,” Allison added.
Bruce Bitter and his brother Brent own B&B Metal Arts in Hoisington. They are also responsible for 9.11 memorial sculptures at the Great Bend Municipal Airport and six other Kansas airports, and for the “Breaking the Prairie Sod” sculpture found at 10th St. and K-96 in Great Bend.
All use heat-colored stainless steel for the multi-colored effect. Depending on the time of day, the figures may appear to be gold, silver, red or blue, or a combination of colors.
Bitter said he started work on the baseball sculpture last October. “I try to create a story when I do a sculpture — the ball coming, the adrenaline rush.”