One day Gannon Ogle was driving by Crysler Stadium and he noticed a sign hanging down from the top part of the bleachers.
It read: “Independence Veterans coming soon.”
He did some research on the Veterans and found out it was a new summer collegiate baseball team in the Mid-Plains League and he wanted to be a part of it, so the William Chrisman graduate called Vern Hasty, the president and founder of the team, and cemented his spot on the squad.
He’s gotten some valuable playing time with Independence and he’s used the experience to help improve his game for when he begins his sophomore season with the Park University baseball team. And as an added bonus, he gets to play in his hometown at the stadium where he played most of his home high school games for Chrisman.
“It’s very nice because I don’t have to travel as far as some of these guys on our team coming from California,” Ogle said. “I can stay and do what I get to do here and still play baseball.”
Ogle, a pitcher at Park University, struggled in his first season with the NAIA Pirates as he had a 17.18 ERA, while pitching just 3 2/3 innings and surrendering 10 hits and one walk.
For the Veterans, he’s been a utility player who’s seen time on the mound, first base, second and third off the bench. So far, he’s shown some improvement. He has an 1-0 record and a 8.57 ERA with four runs allowed in 4 2/3 innings.
Ogle also has seen some action at the plate. Ogle is hitting .194 with double and four RBIs. The hitting experience he is getting with Independence proves to be valuable as he anticipates having some plate appearances during his sophomore season at Park. He had just one as a freshman.
“I feel like I’ve improved playing these few weeks over the summer,” Ogle said. “Just being able to play and see competition will help me for next season. I didn’t want to take a long break from not playing so I wanted to get on a summer team and get some at-bats, stay in shape and stay in baseball form.”
And it’s worked out for him and Hasty as Ogle has been a valuable asset to the team as being a guy who can play multiple positions and give pitchers and hitters on the team some rest.
“He’s been eating up some innings and every team needs that,” Hasty said. “He’s started several game for us. He’s a utility guy and guys like that are few and far between. He’s not a regular starter, but he’s helped us out.
“When we lost Cory Lubinski, he was arguably our best hitter and our shortstop. So when he went down, it really threw a wrench in things. We had to mix and match and (Alex) Eskridge has done a great job at shortstop even though he’s a regular second baseman. But Gannon can play at this position an inning and another during a different inning. Some people might not understand how valuable that is.”
He also provides a change of pace on the mound. While many other pitchers on the team throw hard and rely a lot on the fastball, Ogle often utilizes a curveball and changeup to keep hitters off-balance.
“Even in high school, most hitters can hit a fastball, but you have to keep them off-balance,” Ogle said. “That’s why I use more of the off-speed stuff.”
Added Hasty: “He throws a lot of off-speed stuff but he throws strikes and he pitches to contact. Especially in this wooden bat league, the key is to throw strikes and let your defense help you out. And he definitely does that and doesn’t walk many.
“He’s a pitcher not a thrower. Some guys throw hard and wonder why they get hit hard when all they throw is a fastball. Gannon mixes his pitches up.”
As the Veterans’ season is winding down with the playoffs beginning today (barring a third straight rainout), Ogle said he hopes to use the experience to get better and earn more playing time at Park.
“I want to take advantage of my opportunities when I am there,” he said of playing for the Pirates. “When I get a chance to play, I just want to do the best I can. When I start doing well, my coach can keep putting me back in.”