The National Baseball Congress World Series concluded last weekend, as the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters defeated the Seattle Studs for the 2012 title. But if the annual tournament is to continue for many more years to come, the city of Wichita needs to step up to the plate and make some changes.
The NBC tournament began in 1935 and is a Wichita tradition. Over the years, many baseball greats have played in the tournament, including Ozzie Smith, Albert Pujols, Mark McGwire and Satchel Paige, whose jersey number was retired during this year’s tournament.
But as Eagle columnist Bob Lutz wrote recently, the NBC is in trouble.
Management and ownership changes have left the tournament adrift and without strong advocates. Even worse, winning teams have had trouble collecting their prize money.
It can cost thousands of dollars for out-of-state teams to participate in the two-week-long tournament, particularly teams from Alaska, which used to be regulars but skipped this year. Even if the teams are successful, the prize money may not cover their expenses.
Still, the money helps, and it is unacceptable not to pay the teams on time.
To its credit, the city rescued the NBC after its previous owners, the Rich family of Buffalo, N.Y., moved the Wichita Wranglers out of town in 2006. But the city hasn’t taken much ownership of the NBC, which is part of the problem.
The management of the NBC is done by the Wichita Wingnuts’ front office as part of a contract with the city. That’s also part of the problem, as the Wingnuts’ staffers are more focused – understandably – on promoting their own team than on keeping the tournament going and growing.
It’s not clear what the best solution is. But it is clear that the city needs to be more engaged.
Lutz recommended that the city host a summit with NBC organizational and team leaders to brainstorm ideas. That’s a good suggestion.
The NBC has meant a great deal to Wichita and to generations of area baseball fans. It shouldn’t wither due to neglect.
For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee