Former Grain Valley baseball players find success in college after COVID wipes out senior season

Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner
Max Chapman, a Grain Valley graduate, pitches for Building Champions in a Ban Johnson Collegiate League game. Chapman earned all-conference honors for Johnson County Community College after signing with Wichita State. His promising senior year at Grain Valley was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Next week, Mason Rogers is hoping to get another crack against former teammate Max Chapman. 

The two former Grain Valley standouts are both playing in the Ban Johnson Collegiate League and their two respective teams will meet Monday at Creekside Baseball Complex in Parkville. 

In post-high school competition, Rogers, who plays at Maple Woods, is 0-for-1 with a strikeout against Chapman, who pitches at Johnson County Community College. 

The two are part of seven former Eagles who are playing in the Ban Johnson League this summer. 

“It is awesome,” Chapman said of those situations of facing former teammates. “I grew up with these kids since kindergarten. It’s one of those things where you kind of can’t help but crack a smile. It is such a serious moment but deep down you are best friends and it is all about having fun facing those guys.” 

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Chapman, a left-handed hurler, has faced only one other former Eagle this summer while pitching for Building Champions. Against the North Kansas City Apartment Giants, Chapman held Mickey Simpson, a 2019 Grain Valley graduate, 0-for-2 with a fly out and ground out. 

Chapman is 1-0 with a 1.16 ERA for Building Champions, striking out 13 in 12 innings of work. 

Chapman is building off a successful spring season at Johnson County, where he transferred to after a short stint at Wichita State. 

He started seven games and pitched in relief in six others, going 4-2 with a save and a team-high 72 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings for the Cavaliers. He held opposing batters to a .229 average and had a 2.73 ERA. That helped him earn first-team all-conference honors. 

Coach Eric Horner recruited Chapman out of high school and when he decided to leave Wichita State, Chapman felt there was a program he could go to and feel comfortable. 

He felt he would have a chance to play more for the Cavaliers than he would at Wichita State with a roster crunch that followed the extra year of eligibility offered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It was a place I knew I could get some innings and it really worked out,” said Chapman, who plans to return to JCCC in the fall with his eyes toward another recruiting cycle. 

After taking last summer off from playing, he is back playing with Building Champions, a program he played for while he was in high school. His biggest goal is to just get in innings and get ready to go for fall ball – the peak recruiting season for junior college players. 

He’s already talked to a few colleges and again has his sights on going back to the Division I level. 

“I just want to find the best fit and a place I will play and get the best opportunity at,” Chapman said. 

Mason Rogers, a Grain Valley graduate, makes a catch for the Milgram Mustangs during a Ban Johnson Collegiate League game. Rogers is one of seven former Eagles playing in the summer collegiate league.

Rogers has yet to face Simpson, Chapman or Jesse Scholtz, his high school and college teammate, in the Ban Johnson this summer. 

He is using this summer to get more at-bats, following a debut season at Metropolitan Community College, for which he had 58 plate appearances but only four at-bats in May. He had seven hits, but drew 10 walks and was hit by a pitch twice this spring for the Wolves, playing in 21 games. He was a perfect 5-for-5 on stolen base attempts and had a .328 on-base percentage. 

Rogers is doing well for the Milgram Mustangs, hitting .296 in 12 games, with two extra base hits, including a home run, and with six RBIs. He has stolen two bases out of three attempts. 

“I’m getting reps and getting ready for school ball and it is going good so far,” said Rogers, an all-state selection for Grain Valley as a junior. “I’m making progress. What I like is seeing a lot of kids I played with growing up. It is good competition, getting to play baseball and get momentum going into the school season.” 

College teammate Roman Sherman helped get Rogers into the Ban Johnson League this summer and he is enjoying the opportunity to play twice a week. 

Rogers said the best part is catching up with former teammates – like he will get soon with Chapman – the only team with a former Eagle he hasn’t played against yet. 

You could imagine the two will talk about the fun they had playing for Grain Valley – but also the spring of 2020. The Eagles were among the top 10 teams in Class 5 and a senior class was loaded with players headed to college baseball. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic ended the season, the chance to earn a trip to the state final four went away with it. This spring, the Eagles reached the Class 5 championship game despite graduating nine seniors. 

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“We had a lot of talent and a lot of seniors,” Rogers said of his senior class. “We had great talent so it was a hard one to swallow. We couldn’t go out and play and see what we could do. It was nice to see these guys come up and do well. I checked up on them to see how they were doing. They were playing for us, I heard, so what happened ... I was a big fan of that.” 

Chapman at the time was one of two Division I-bound pitchers for Grain Valley – the other was Jacob Misiorowski, a one-time Oklahoma State signee that ended up at Crowder College. 

Chapman still recalls practice last March that ended abruptly and then the eventual cancellation of the season. Last May, the seniors gathered together for one last practice at the high school.

“It (practice) was canceled for two weeks and it turned into over a year,” Chapman said. “It was definitely heartbreaking. We had a really good team and we always talked about how by the time we were seniors, we would probably have our best chance to get to state. We were wrong – this year’s team made it as far as Grain Valley had gone in a long time. 

“It is bittersweet. I’m glad for the younger guys. Last year’s team probably had the same shot to go that far. I wish I could’ve experienced it. I keep in touch with guys on the team and watching from afar the success and getting firsthand experiences being friends with guys on the team. I loved hearing about the success.”