Wichita State’s Micah Green warmed up at Denver’s Coors Field during high school before an all-star game. Then a tornado warning canceled the game.
So close to playing on a major league field.
Just taking batting practice gave him a taste and he is one of many Shockers excited about Tuesday’s game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.. While college baseball features many nice ballparks, there is nothing like a chance to play on the world’s best baseball fields, this one home to the Kansas City Royals.
“It will be the only time that most guys get to play in a big-league stadium,” Green said. “It’s amazing. When you step on one of those fields, it’s like playing on a golf course. The field, it just seems perfect.”
Wichita State (21-18) takes a season-best five-game win streak to Kauffman Stadium to face Missouri (17-21). It is the start of a four-game road trip that takes the Shockers from Kansas City to New Orleans, via airplane on Wednesday, for a weekend series against Tulane.
Count coach Todd Butler among those excited to play in front of the fountains. He hopes to run into Royals general manager Dayton Moore, a friend since they crossed paths during Moore’s time with the Atlanta Braves and Butler’s as an assistant at Alabama.
“It’s a fun time for our players,” Butler said. “We’ve had a good week and hopefully we can carry that forward.”
Lefty Kris Gardner earned the start with three solid innings against Oral Roberts a week ago in WSU’s 6-5 win at Eck Stadium. He allowed two hits and one run and has a 2.50 ERA in his past three appearances over 7 2/3 innings. Butler would like to get at least four innings out of Gardner and would also like to get other pitchers a chance to throw on the Kauffman Stadium mound.
Gardner, a junior, gave WSU its best mid-week start in several weeks against ORU. He bounced back from several rough outings in late March and his April numbers are improved.
“The ball is coming out of his hand well,” Butler said. “He had to get through that tough period he was going through and he overcame that. I would like to see him go deeper into the games.”
Gardner started at Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park, home of the College World Series, against Creighton earlier in his career and remembers that experience fondly.
“It’s kind of a similar setting,” he said. “At the same time, before the game, you don’t want to make too much of it and get worked up about throwing in a big-league park. It’s still the same thing, same dimensions.”
Once the Shockers get past the thrill of their surroundings, extending the winning streak is paramount. Last season’s team didn’t put together a five-game win streak until the MVC Tournament. The Shockers haven’t won more than five in a row since the 2011 team won seven straight near the end of the season.
The five-game streak started at Evansville, ending an eight-game losing streak, and continued with four home wins. The Shockers rested, practiced and played in front of friendly fans.
“We’re playing with a lot more confidence,” right fielder Garrett Bayliff said. “That eight-game stretch, our confidence was pretty shot. We got off the bus and we’ve been able to work with the coaches more. We’re getting back to the basics and getting our routines in order.”