Kevin Jenks’ passion for baseball doesn’t need a flow chart.
For Jenks, in his first year as the National Baseball Congress World Series tournament director, baseball always leads back to his brother, Ken Rohlman.
“I have a brother who is 20 years older than I am,” said Jenks, 40. “He’s my dad, best friend, coach, teacher, all that rolled into one. And he still is today. We’re very close. He’s the reason why I’m a big St. Louis Cardinals fan.
“He’s the reason I got into baseball. I would come home from school, ‘Do you want to go play catch?’ It wasn’t just baseball. It was baseball and football. It was the sport he loved the most, and he passed it on to me. I learned a lot about baseball from him.”
Rohlman coached Jenks, who played two years at Dodge City Community College, in baseball for at least 10 years.
“When I look back on it now, from 25 to basically 40, 42 years old, I was his kid in a way,” Jenks said. “He was at all my games. He took me everywhere I went. He bought me shoes, helped me find a glove, helped me find a bat.”
They also attended NBC games together, which makes Jenks’ job as the new tournament director a natural.
Through the 80 years of the NBC World Series, which includes 32 teams and begins Friday at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, a mainstay has been the tournament director, the face of the tournament.
“There needs to be someone everyone can go to and relate to,” said Josh Robertson, the president and general manager of the NBC.
The history of NBC tournament directors is short, starting with founder Hap Dumont and his protege, Larry Davis.
Now the tournament is in the hands of Jenks, whose work history in television, sales and marketing help him in his new role.
Jenks already had a working knowledge of the NBC when he was hired to replace Casey Walkup, the tournament director in 2012 and 2013.
His goal is to create a buzz around the NBC, consistently looking for ways to make the World Series a destination for fans.
“We’re 80 years old because people have been loyal to the World Series and want to keep coming out here,” Jenks said. “That’s awesome. It’s something I grew up doing.
“It’s an honor to be in this position, to hopefully pay tribute to those who have played here and been fans here for 40, 50, 60 years, and to ignite a new generation, as well.”
After 12 years in sports broadcasting, including 3 1/2 as the weekend sports anchor at KAKE, Ch. 10, Jenks left television for a career in corporate recruiting, sales and marketing for about five years.
When he decided that wasn’t for him, Robertson asked him to be a media assistant in 2012. Jenks was in between jobs, so he agreed. After the NBC wrapped up, Jenks was hired as the operations manager for the 2013 NBC.
Jenks’ time as a media member and ability to immerse himself into new situations was preparation for a job that involves him talking to many types of people.
The tournament director has his hands in everything, and while there’s really no typical day, the overriding goal is to have it all run smoothly.
Jenks might work the field at 3 a.m. during the NBC. Or set up postgame meals for each team. Or talk to sponsors.
“I thought I was pretty organized; I’m not,” Jenks said. “ I was a communications major (at Fort Hays State). I thought I was a good communicator, but I have to be better. I’m communicating with so many different circles — internal staff, NBC teams, sponsors. Things fall through the cracks, unfortunately.”
He’s working to make sure not much escapes attention, though.
Jenks isn’t afraid to ask questions of Robertson, Jerry Taylor (tournament director for 13 years and now a volunteer advisor), or Walkup.
In early July, Jenks and Taylor discussed possible scenarios for the bracket. Taylor called the bracket a puzzle because there’s so much to fit.
Jenks’ job could change after this World Series. The city, which owns the NBC, created a nine-member foundation to oversee the tournament once the 2014 version ends. It’s up to that board to decide whether to employ Jenks or the Wingnuts to help stage the 2015 tournament.
Until then, though, Jenks is trying to make the NBC World Series a tournament to remember for fans and teams.
“I think Kevin will do a great job and the reason I do is he’s very organized,” Taylor said. “He’s a people person, which I think this job definitely needs. He’s someone who cares a lot about how things are perceived. He wants this tournament to go off smoothly. He’s very conscientious, and I have all the confidence in him.”