The cat got out of the bag before Roger Ward was ready.
Ward, who currently coaches Great Bend American Legion baseball, wants to bring a collegiate-level team to town starting next summer. Ideally, it would be affiliated with the Jayhawk League, which also includes the perennial National Baseball Congress World Series contending Hays Larks.
He has had preliminary talks with league officials and will meet with them on Aug. 27 when he hopes to get a final decision.
“I’ve been getting all my ducks in a row,” he said. “This is an exciting deal.”
However, the summer baseball picture in Great Bend has gotten murky.
Ward’s plans were brought up during the Monday night City Council discussion on renewing the Great Boom’s agreement to lease Al Burns Field for its 2017 season. City officials were concerned that they had not been contacted by Ward and that the field, located at Veterans Memorial Park, could not support two similar teams. Now, negotiations are underway between the city and Andrew Dunn of the Pecos League, of which the Boom is a part.
Muddying the water more was the report in June of an effort to bring the Great Bend Titans to town. Another collegiate team, no more has been heard from the organizers since the initial news release.
This all worries Ward. He fears local baseball fans will get these teams confused.
“I’ve been working on this for over a year,” Ward said. He started before the Boom and the Titans.
Ward said he had talked to Mayor Mike Allison and has contacted City Administrator Howard Partington. He hopes to be on the Sept. 2 council agenda which would be shortly after his meeting with Jayhawk officials.
Partington said Ward had emailed him, requesting to make a presentation to the council. After that, it will be in the council’s hands.
But, regardless of the city’s action, Ward said he will bring more ball to Great Bend. “I am going to do this no matter what,” even if it means finding another field option besides Al Burns.
Passionate about baseball, Ward said he just wants to give kids a shot at making it to the major leagues. Several Jayhawk players have made the transition.
The Jayhawk League is summer collegiate baseball organization. It has eight teams in Kansas, including the Hays Larks. The league has an automatic berth into the National Baseball Congress World Series that is played in Wichita.
The Jayhawk League is a wood bat league that plays according to the American League rules. It was formed in 1976.
But, Ward said if the Jayhawk deal falls through, he has also been in contact with Kansas Collegiate Baseball.
Kansas Collegiate League Baseball (formerly the Walter Johnson League)is another eight-team, NBC summer collegiate baseball league that has been around since 1999. It also has an automatic berth in the NBC World Series. The closest team is the Hutchinson Monarchs.