Kansas caravan makes pit stop for summer league game at WC

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Warren Central coach Randy Broome has always searched near and far to find good competition for his ballclub. As the convoy of SUVs sporting Kansas plates rolled into the Viking Field parking lot on Tuesday, it was clear the team WC was about to face fell solidly into the “far” category.

The Girard Trojans, a select team from southeastern Kansas, stopped in Vicksburg to play WC on their way to a weekend tournament in Florida. Girard which had only two players in its starting lineup who will still be in high school next fall beat the Vikings 7-0 and 5-4 in a doubleheader, but it wasn’t just another day at the ballpark.

Curious fans turned out to see the Kansas squad, and ask how it all came about. For the players, it was a chance to have some fun against a different team that no one even Broome knew a thing about.

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“Most of those guys were nice, nice as they could be. It was a really great experience for me and the rest of my teammates,” WC third baseman Zach Balthrop said. “I hope they come down again. I enjoy having them there, it was great.”

It’s the third straight year that Girard has gone to the tournament in Panama City, Fla., and made a pit stop in Mississippi to play a few games. The last two years, the team played Tupelo on the way to Florida and a team in Jasper, Ala., on the return trip. This time, Girard coach Dan Smith was looking for some different foes.

He got on the Internet to do some research, and found Northwest Rankin. After talking with Northwest coach Jeff McClaskey, Smith found an opponent for the trip down Warren Central.

A few phone calls were made between Smith and Broome, and the game was scheduled.

“Anybody that’s coming from Kansas to Florida has a good ballclub, and that’s what we need to see during the summer,” Broome said. “Anytime you can play a bunch that you’ll never see again, it makes it fun. We play the same guys in Jackson all year long, and it’s something we try to do. Anytime you get a chance to play an out-of-state school, especially, it’s exciting.”

Broome welcomed the competition, but didn’t know anything about the team. After a brief conversation with Smith at home plate on Tuesday, he found out plenty.

Girard takes its players from five high schools in southeastern Kansas’ Crawford County, and takes its name from one of those regional high schools. Smith said the team has two major fundraisers each year that bring about $14,000, which pays for the costs of traveling to various tournaments throughout the summer.

“The kids want to play away, and by playing away you don’t have to fix your own field, you don’t have the umpiring costs, and then all you have to do is buy baseballs. So there is some advantages to playing away a lot,” Smith said.

The summer team plays in an American Legion league, allowing it to use players who have already graduated.

Because of that rule, seven of the nine starters against WC were high school graduates.