The National Baseball Congress World Series isn’t a vanity project for the Equity Bank Kansas Alumni team.
Yes, the players’ competitive nature will probably take over immediately and yes, the former college and professional players from the region want to play well, but ultimately it’s just about playing.
The team was organized by general manager Matt Baty at the request of NBC officials to participate in the tournament’s alumni day on Saturday. It includes players who played professionally last year, or five years ago, or not at all.
The World Series begins Friday morning and the first week will feature at-large selections and teams that didn’t win their leagues. The top two teams from the first week will advance to Championship Week with 12 automatic qualifiers and two more at-large choices.
“I don’t think any of us are out there to prove anything,” said Baty, who played at the University of Kansas from 2003-06 and is on the Alumni roster. “I think we’ve all spoken for our abilities. I sure hope the fans aren’t there judging our careers six years out of playing ball.
“When we get in the box, we’re going to swing it. We’re going to pitch the ball, we’re going to field the ball and see where the chips fall from there. But I don’t think we’re looking to make a name. We’re not playing for that scout that’s behind home plate, we’re playing for the passion for the game and we all still have that passion.”
Baty was approached recently by NBC president Josh Robertson and tournament director Casey Walkup with the idea of completing Alumni Night, where past NBC players are allowed free admission.
The response to Baty from players he contacted was more enthusiastic than he planned, and the roster came together.
The team, coached by Tabor coach and former Wichita State infielder Mark Standiford, includes former WSU players Rob Musgrave, Ruben Kerbs, Matt Brown, Tyler Weber, Pat Magness, Khol Nanney and Tim Kelley. Also included are several former Big 12 players and past major leaguers Brian McRae and Tobi Stoner.
McRae, an outfielder for five teams, including the Royals, retired in 1999 and might not play in the tournament due to injury. Stoner, 28, pitched in four games for the Mets between 2009-10.
“It’s been a fun little process,” Baty said. “We set out probably a month ago with the plan of putting together an alumni team.… When we set out to put this together, we wanted to get the competitive juices and we wanted to put a good product out on the field. We didn’t want just anybody, but guys that can still play. We’d like to sell some tickets, as well, so we got some guys with some names. When you’re selling guys with a Wichita connection, hopefully that brings a crowd out.”
The alumni team wouldn’t be complete without 50-year-old former WSU catcher Terry Elliot, who has played in more than 20 NBC World Series starting when he was 16. Another veteran is Steve Lienhard, 48, who pitched at Oklahoma State and coaches at Kapaun Mount Carmel.
Baty frequently mentioned those competitive juices when discussing his motivation for putting the team together and for playing on it, but the goal for the Alumni players is to spend extra moments with the game they love.
“It’s going to be exciting,” said Magness, an All-America first baseman for WSU in 1998. “It’ll be fun seeing some of the guys I played with at WSU and some of the guys I know from the baseball world.
“… It’s always interesting, I’m 35 years old and kind of an old man now, but I’m going to look at the ball the way I’ve always looked at it. If you’re going to throw it down the middle of the plate, I’m going to try to get you.”