Moments before the opening ceremony of the 29th American Legion Wood Bat Invitational, the skies opened at Hidden Valley Park.
“Well,” tournament founder and director Jim Moran said, “par for the course.”
Mother Nature has once again played a big role in one of the largest wood bat tournaments in the country, as many opening day games were postponed or had their game times moved up or back, according to their original time and place.
“We want to thank Brad Mayfield (the former head baseball coach at Blue Springs High School who is now at Odessa High School and manages the Odessa Post 286 Bulldogs) and the Odessa School District for letting us play some games there today,” Moran said, “or we would have really been in a mess.
“We want to thank the Blue Springs Parks and Recreation Department and Dick Spooner and his crew for getting our fields here at Hidden Valley in playable shape and our grounds crew team of Dick Roberts and Pat Moran for spending all day out here so we can use all three fields.”
For the first time in the 29-year history of the Wood Bat Invitational, Moran is only serving as tournament director. He retired last year after spending 33 years as the manager of Blue Springs Post 499 Fike, the tourney’s host team.
“It’s been different, I’ll admit that,” Moran said. “The Fike coaching staff is taking care of the team and I’m running the tournament ...”
Suddenly, his cell phone rings as a volunteer has a question.
“But you can see,” he said, chuckling, “some things never change.”
POST 21 FALLS: Gehrig Bristow hurled a complete game but gave up a couple unearned runs, and Post 21 had three baserunners thrown out on the basepaths in a 4-3 loss to DeSoto (Mo.) SMCI in the their opening pool play game in the Wood Bat Invitational late Wednesday.
“He pitched well enough to win,” Post 21 manager Tom Bush said of Bristow. “We just didn't play well behind him.”
Kyle Schnakenberg, Nick Wheeler (double) and Bryson Powell each had two hits for Post 21, which tied the game 1-1 and 2-2 but never led. A missed cut-off man on SMCI's go-ahead run helped allow the eventual winning run to score, Bush said.
“That's how this team's been – too inconsistent,” he said.
MEYER SCHOLARSHIP: Blue Springs Rod’s Sports A’s shortstop CJ July, who was No. 1 in his class at Blue Springs High School, is the winner of the 20th annual $1,000 Jimmy Meyers Scholarship, given in the memory of Jimmy Meyers, a former player who was killed by a drunk driver.
“It’s a great honor, especially since the scholarship is in the memory of Jimmy Meyers,” said July, who received the scholarship after writing an essay about himself and American Legion Baseball.
He was presented the scholarship by Marty Meyers, of Meyers Funeral Home in Blue Springs.
“My son, Chad, had lung surgery performed at Children’s Mercy Hospital when he was a baby, and we read in CJ’s essay that he has worked with children at the hospital and Ronald McDonald House, and that really hit home for us, because we spent some time at a Ronald McDonald House,” Meyers said, referring to the charity that provides housing for families of sick children. “And he’s No. 1 in his class. We’re honored to present him with the scholarship.”
FIRST PITCH: Former Fort Osage High School and Post 499 Fike pitcher and outfielder Garrett Phillips, who is now a private first class in the United States Marine Corps, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Moran, his former manager.
“I’m just glad I didn’t short hop it,” said Phillips, who fired a strike to home plate. “I haven’t picked up a baseball in about one and a half years, so I didn’t know what to expect. But this is such a great honor to be a part of the Wood Bat Invitational.
“I know how much it meant to me and our coaches and players and their families back when I was playing for Fike. I’ll never forget tonight.”
Longtime Wood Bat Invitational and Fike public address announcer Jerry Kaylor was also honored before the game.
“Jerry is the voice of the Wood Bat Invitational,” Moran said. “It’s about time we showed our appreciation.”
GORDON HONORED: Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, whose Lincoln (Neb.) J.C. Brager team played in the Wood Bat Invitational in 1999, was the recipient of the Wood Bat Invitational Hall of Fame plaque. He could not be there Wednesday to accept the award because the Royals are playing in Seattle.