After only two years, Bryce Dye is already on his way to breaking the career home run records at Park University.
The Fort Osage High School graduate didn’t sign with the NAIA school in Parkville out of high school, but after a mid-semester transfer he has become a two-year starter for the Pirates.
He smacked a team-high five home runs this spring before the season came to a halt after 21 games in March. He had a .623 slugging percentage and also led the team in RBIs with 19.
Dye, a 2018 Missouri State High School Baseball Coaches Association all-state pick as a senior, is making up for some lost time this spring by playing in the Ban Johnson League this summer.
One of the few collegiate leagues playing this year in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dye is putting up some good numbers for the Legends.
In nine games, he has a .348 average with three doubles, one home run and nine RBIs. He sports a .438 batting average on balls in play, third on the team.
"It’s going pretty good so far," Dye said. "I’m not doing as good as I’d like, but I’m still doing all right."
The left-handed throwing and hitting junior-to-be alternates between playing first base and being the designated hitter for coach Cary Lundy, who doubles as his summer coach for the Legends and at Park.
Lundy invited Dye to play last year, but he chose to work instead. This year, with only a limited amount of at-bats, he took Lundy up on the offer.
"It took me a week or two to get my timing back," Dye said of playing after a nearly three-month layoff. "I’m starting to see positive results the last week or two and half weeks. It’s been enjoyable. It is more relaxed. If you lose, you’re not losing sleep at night. It’s a fun team to be around. It (the Ban Johnson League) is a good fit for me, I’d say.
"The league is more competitive than I initially thought but with other leagues not playing, kids were still trying to play and Ban Johnson is an opportunity for kids to play."
Practice started in the middle of June and the first game was on June 22. Prior to that, he was working 40 hours a week helping build swimming pools for Charles Mainard Pool out of Oak Grove, a job he has held for six years.
It has been a few years since Dye took a break from the game, something he said helped him.
He signed with Crowder College in Neosho after an all-state senior season and a second trip to the district finals – both losses to Liberty North — at Fort Osage. After a week in southern Missouri, he decided to head back home. He talked with Park assistant coach Beau Franklin when he got back and Franklin offered him a chance to keep playing.
"He told me they got a spot for me if I was still trying to stay in baseball," Dye said. "It was kind of a refresher for me. I was maybe feeling a bit burnt out and that time off helped me set my head straight. I still wanted to play college baseball. I felt confident in my playing ability and it showed through the coaches. I started all but one game my freshman year."
He built a relationship with Franklin from playing with the Yard Baseball Club for three years in high school, which led to him landing at Park. Dye is playing against some of his former YBC teammates in the Ban Johnson League, like Garrett McGowan who is on Regal Plastics.
In his first spring at Park, Dye – a construction management major – hit .286 with 13 doubles, nine home runs and 43 RBIs. In two years at Park, he sits eighth all-time on career home runs with 14. He was on pace to move further up the list before the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the rest of the season. Dye noted he was on a bus ride home from a league game at William Woods on March 11 when they got the news.
The current Park record holder for career home runs is Truman High School graduate Kyle Clifton, who clubbed 23 from 2011-13. In a unique twist, Dye’s Legends will play a doubleheader against the Creche Innovation Stars, whose general manager and coach is Clifton, at 5 p.m. Sunday at Missouri 3&2.
Dye is not taking any games this summer for granted with the rise in cases across the state. Three days ago, the Show-Me League in Springfield called off the season after a player in that collegiate summer league tested positive for the coronavirus.
"I saw the Show-Me League canceled," said Dye, an American Midwest Conference academic all-conference pick this spring. "We are fortunate we got a chance to play. Who knows with all the cases and positive tests; hopefully we stay playing for the rest of the summer, but I guess we don’t know."