For the past six years, Blue Springs South coach Ben Baier has interrupted the baseball season with a dose of reality.
He has teamed with Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity chapter and brought members of his team and coaching staff to a site in Eastern Jackson County where they have done everything from raise the walls on a new home to helping a young couple refurbish a home that was much in need of a facelift.
“We have some guys on the team, like Austin Simms, who have made the past three trips,” Baier said before a Thursday afternoon practice session, as his 21-11 team prepares to host a Class 5 sectional playoff game against Lee’s Summit West next Tuesday.
“Then we have the new kids, who made their first trip. It's great to see the reactions of both groups. It's an eye-opening experience for me, our coaches and the kids. And (former South) Coach (Richard) Wood has made the last two trips.
“It's so special to have him come along. He's a great man and the kids and I really enjoy being around him.”
The Jaguars’ latest project was a remodel job that included some concrete work, tearing out kitchen cabinets and replacing them with newer ones and cleaning up some brush and weeds in the yard and tearing down a dilapidated fence.
“This is the second time I've gone to one of these Habitat for Humanity work days, and they are awesome,” said senior pitcher Reece Eddins, who defeated Lee's Summit North 6-1 in the district championship game earlier this week. “Let's see, I demolished some cabinets, helped Simms pour some concrete, dug some holes – we all worked hard. And it's the type of hard work that makes you smile because you know you're doing it for someone right here in your community.”
Eddins added that it helps keep him and the team humbled.
“We're in the middle of the playoffs, and to go work on something like this gives you a much-needed dose of reality,” he said. “This is real-world stuff. There are people out there who need help, and for one Saturday morning, we were able to help them.
“It gives a bunch of high school kids the chance to look at the big picture, and I like what I saw. Especially when the young couple we were working for had such big smiles on their faces when we were done. It was just the best feeling – for them and for us.”
Junior Max Atchity made his first trip this season, and he said he can't wait to go back next year.
“It was one of the best experiences of my life,” Atchity said. “We dug some three-foot deep holes to pour concrete in for a deck and it was hard work. But to see the smiles on the young couple's faces made it all worthwhile.
“We all enjoyed it. As a team – the Blue Springs South High School baseball team – we made an impact on the lives of some people. And if I ever drive by that house, I can say, 'We had a part in that.'”
Braden Younkin missed out on last year's trip because he was taking his ACT test.
“I'm so glad I got to go this year,” Younkin said. “A young couple needed some help, and we were able to help them. I'm never going to forget the big smiles on their faces. Never!”
Simms, the ol' pro of the group, agrees.
“It's something I've looked forward to ever since I went on my first trip as a sophomore,” Simms said. “You hear about people in need, but you don't really know what it's like until you're there and you see where you can help.
“You meet the people you're helping and find out they're great people and that a bunch of high school kids and their coaches made an impact in their lives. It doesn't get much better than that.”