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Change of plans: Blue Springs grad Liggett finds new college home

Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner

Chris Liggett had every intention of heading back to Crowder College this fall, but those plans took a detour while playing for Regal Plastic in the Ban Johnson League.

The Blue Springs High School graduate recently signed a letter of intent to play for Park University in Parkville, bypassing a chance to return to one of the best junior college programs in the country.

He was a sophomore this year at Crowder and had a chance to return to the program after the National Junior College Athletic Association gave spring athletes an extra year of eligibility after the COVID-19 pandemic ended the season early.

“I had been talking to them for a long time,” Liggett said. “They recruited me out of high school. With all the stuff going on with the coronavirus, I wasn’t trying to go away from home; it is kind of scary and I wanted to stay home. I got a good offer and I think it was the best move for me.”

He joins a Park program that is making the transition in conferences, going from the American Midwest Conference to the Heart of America Athletic Conference.

He will have some familiar faces there when he shows up at the NAIA school in Parkville.

Former Wildcats Nick Brandner and Bryce Perdieu were on the team last year, while current teammate Vincent Tinoco, a Winnetonka graduate, is transferring to Park from Allen County (Kan.) Community College.

Regal’s coach is Clint Culbertson, an assistant coach at Park, who actually recruited Liggett out of high school when he was at Metropolitan Community College-Longview. And in another twist, as a senior, Park was the first college visit for Liggett.

“He’s a left-handed bat that can play all three outfield spots,” Culbertson said of Liggett. “It is convenient to have that speed that you can move around in the outfield. He can run when he wants to run and steal some bags. He’s a tough, feisty kid. He’s a tough out at the plate and he’s got some juice for a little guy. I’m not talking double-digit home runs, but he can get a ball in the gap if he gets the right pitch.”

Liggett was hitting .281 with a triple, five RBIs, six walks and three stolen bases in the Ban Johnson League through July 26. In the field, he had a 1.000 fielding percentage with no errors, with 12 putouts and one assist.

“I’ve been struggling with my bat,” said Liggett, who played in Ban Johnson two years ago for Yard Baseball Club. “I’ve been playing solid defense and I have been moving around making plays. I’ve been decent on the bases, but swinging wise, not doing my best.”

If things had gone as planned back in the spring, Liggett would’ve been playing with Crowder teammate Tyler Sheridan in the Western Canadian Baseball League. When that league was shut down, he returned to Ban Johnson. He is one of five Crowder players, all from the Kansas City metro, playing this summer.

“I told him the other day if there was a coach that came to look at other kids, he was going to stand out just because of his effort,” said Park coach Cary Lundy, who coaches the Ban Johnson Legends. “When we played them, he was all over the ballpark in left field. Balls were hit and he was going to them. He tried to make a diving catch at the warning track; he came up and crashed into the left-field fence. You play like that, that is very contagious to whatever school you go to, and at that time he hadn’t made a decision if he was coming to Park. We are fortunate to that; we love to get those kind of kids.”

Liggett had plans of going back to Crowder, which was 23-3 and ranked No. 2 in the NJCAA when the season was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic in early March. Liggett was hitting .263 with two triples, eight runs scored, two RBIs in 11 games. He made his mark by getting on base, drawing 10 walks and getting hit by pitches twice, giving him a .548 on-base percentage.

“It was heartbreaking, just heartbreaking,” Liggett said of the season ending early. “We had something special in our future. I don’t think there was a team that could’ve stopped us. I think we had the momentum that could carry us all the way. We were beating teams left and right. I barely even played and I had a blast riding the bench. It was fun.”

Liggett came back home after getting booted from the dorms and began working – he runs a lawn care and painting business with his friend in Blue Springs – and is working out.

He was enrolled to go to school part-time in the fall and then full-time in the spring, but his relationship with Culbertson and other Park players on Regal Plastic helped make the decision to stay home.

“It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make,” Liggett said of leaving Crowder. “That coaching staff not only made me a better baseball player, but they helped me grow as a man. That is the greatest four coaches I’ve had in my life.”

That staff features head coach Travis Lallemand and assistants Tyler Sawyer, Jason Immekus and Nick Doughty, who helped bring Liggett to Neosho.

Doughty, the Roughriders hitting coach, was at Black Hawk College in Moline, Ill., and coached Liggett in 2018 at the junior college. Liggett was a first-team Region IV pick and was named the Arrowhead Athletic Conference co-MVP in 2018.

In the fall of 2018, a shoulder injury put his playing career in peril. He had to have labrum surgery and missed the entire 2019 season. He left the school at semester and rehabbed the injury in Blue Springs.

Doughty then went to Crowder, and provided Liggett a chance to play again.

He loved his time in Neosho and knows his former teammates will be as good, if not better, next year.

The Roughriders added Grain Valley standout Jacob Misiorowski, who bypassed his chance to play at Oklahoma State. Lallemand also nabbed transfers from Baylor and Arkansas to help fortify the roster.

“That school is the real thing; they will be something special next year,” Liggett said. “I’m excited to see what they do.”