Jerry Kaylor was not manning his usual position in the press box at Hidden Valley Park for Wednesday night's opening ceremonies for the rain-delayed 31st annual American Legion Wood Bat Invitational.
But there was a good reason.
The longtime public address announcer was on the field with tournament director and co-founder Jim Moran as Kaylor became the 18th inductee into the Wood Bat Hall of Fame.
"We usually surprise our inductees," Moran said, "but I had to call Jerry in advance so he could get his family to the ceremony and so he would be on the field, and not behind the microphone in the press box. He's such a big part of this Wood Bat Invitational and we're happy to honor him."
For a man who is good with words, on this special night, Kaylor was momentarily at a loss for them.
"This is a humbling experience," he said. "When you look at the display and see all the names who are in the Hall of Fame, people like (legendary for American Legion manager and Wood Bat co-founder) Ron Johnson and (former Examiner sports editor) Dick Puhr and all the great players – well, I'm humbled and very proud."
Kaylor called all the Wood Bat Invitational games on Field 2 from 2000 to 2015. He was manning the microphone at Kauffman Stadium for the first Frank White Classic game, where area teams earned the chance to play on the big league diamond. He has called the names of players and coaches at three American Legion regional tournaments and was Truman High School's PA announcer from 2006 to 2017 when he won a seat on the Blue Springs City Council. He worked baseball, softball, boys and girls basketball and football for the Patriots.
In 2018 he was honored by the Kansas City Royals as he sat in the Buck O'Neil Seat, which honors individuals who have impacted lives in their community. He revolutionized the area prep public address scene with his lively commentary and a repertoire of more than 25,000 songs that he played between innings.
But it wasn't always like that.
"Oh no," Kaylor said, chuckling. "I remember playing songs from a radio between innings our at a game at Oak Grove High School and we had to hold an umbrella over our equipment because it was getting so hot. We've come a long way since those days."
While he was not manning the microphone, Kaylor enjoyed watching his son Matt play for Blue Springs Post 499 Fike in the mid 1990s.
"I'm proud of my dad, and I know what today means to him," Matt, a former professional umpire, said after the ceremony. "He's right there alongside Ron Johnson and (umpire) Mike O'Dell, who helped me get a start umpiring. If you came to a Wood Bat game, you knew you were going to hear my dad from the press box."
Many members of Kaylor's family, including his wife Debbie and grandson Jaxon, who will be a sophomore member of the Grain Valley High School baseball team, were on hand for the ceremony.
For a few anxious moments Wednesday morning, when a severe thunderstorm blew through Eastern Jackson County, Moran wondered if any of the fields would be playable, or ready for the opening ceremonies that included a march of all teams on Field No. 2.
"Where did that storm come from?" said Moran, who served as a master of ceremonies for the event. "There was nothing on the radar, it really caught us off guard, but the city of Blue Springs, our ground crew and a lot of great volunteers worked hard all do so we could have this ceremony and even play games on Field No. 2 and No. 3."
Four games were played late Wednesday night following the opening ceremonies. The rest of Wednesday’s pool play games have been rescheduled for today and Friday (see attached schedule).
MOLINE POST 246 6, LEE’S SUMMIT OUTLAWS 4: The Lee’s Summit Post 189 Auxiliary Outlaws dropped their first pool play game in the Wood Bat Invitational, falling to Moline (Ill.) Post 246 late Wednesday.
Trailing 4-0, the Outlaws scored three runs in the bottom of the third inning on TJ Nichols’ two-run triple and Zane Ragland’s sacrifice fly.
The Outlaws then tied it when Blake Marnholtz scored on a balk after walking earlier in the inning.
But Moline scored single runs in each of the sixth and seventh innings to claim the win.
Trevor Key, Jaxson Hill and Logan Adams each added two hits for the Outlaws.