Blue Springs grad Raymond Paniagua happy to find new college baseball home

Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner
After a successful season at Kansas City Kansas Community College, Blue Springs High School graduate Raymond Paniagua is having a strong season in the Ban Johnson Collegiate League this summer before he heads to North Carolina to play for Barton College in the next school year.

PARKVILLE, Mo. — After three years at Kansas City Kansas Community College, Raymond Paniagua is moving to a four-year college halfway across the country. 

The 2018 Blue Springs High School graduate has signed to play at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina – about 17 hours from his hometown. 

“I didn’t know anything about the school (at first), but I went out on a visit and everything was good,” said Paniagua, who is playing for the NKC Apartment Giants this summer in the Ban Johnson Collegiate League. “I was interested and they came out and watched me and I did good. I had a good offer. 

“I think what separated them is they made it known they wanted me to get to the next level and to make it the highest level possible. I had colleges around here interested, but they made it known they wanted me.” 

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Paniagua will be an outfielder for the Bulldogs, who competes in the Conference Carolinas and was one of the final three teams in the league’s postseason tournament. The connection that led Paniagua to Barton starts at head coach Keith Gorman, who just finished his second year at the helm. Gorman attended Bishop LeBlond High School in St. Joseph and played college baseball at KCKCC as well. 

Paniagua will head to Barton after a successful final season at KCKCC, a spring in which he earned honorable mention status on the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference East Division team. 

Raymond Paniagua

He led the Blue Devils in hits (65), triples (10), walks (30) while finishing second in doubles (13), home runs (5) and third in runs (48) and batting average (.367). He also added 14 stolen bases, fourth on KCKCC. 

He is having similar success on his summer team, coached by Matt Shipley – a first-year manager for the Giants, replacing former Blue Springs standout Jeremy Lufft. 

This summer marks another in which Paniagua and Jake Lufft – Jeremy’s younger brother – have been playing together since they were 9 years old. With both being from Blue Springs, it also makes it easier to carpool to Creekside Baseball Park in Parkville, about a 50-minute drive from Eastern Jackson County. Games are held each Monday and Wednesday through July. 

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In his most recent games, Paniagua went 2-for-5 in a doubleheader against the KC Knights. The right-handed-hitting center fielder had a pair of hits, including a triple, scored three runs and drove in three runs in a 14-2 victory in Game 1. 

He is leading the Giants in hits (12), batting average (.426) and on-base percentage (.515) and third in RBIs (10) and runs (9) through 16 games. His average is third best in the league BJCL. 

“He’s been a guy we have relied on,” said Shipley, who was just hired as the Shawnee Mission (Kan.) South High School head coach. “At the beginning of the year he was super quiet and went about his business. Even when he doesn’t play, he is a good bench guy and has taken the leadership role on the team. The kid can run. He can drop down bunts and get on base. He is a player. He started out pretty slow and was not an everyday player but he worked his way into the lineup and is going to be our leadoff hitter and playing center field.”