NBC Baseball

Heat stays true to its tradition

When playing baseball in Arizona, the Haysville Heat was known for taking players from smaller colleges in an effort to produce better chemistry.

Now in a new city and a better league, Heat general manager Dick Twyman has decided to change... absolutely nothing.

The Heat, with a roster of many players from less-recognizable schools, leads the Jayhawk League after not fielding a team in 2009 as they prepared for the move from Lake Havasu, Ariz. The Heat opens the National Baseball Congress Midwest Regional at 4 p.m. today against the Wichita Wheat Kings at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

"We didn't even consider (making changes)," Twyman said. "You look at how many years we've been coming to the World Series... we've done fairly well, so there was no reason to change anything."

While playing as the Havasu Heat since 1996, the team run by Twyman and manager Rick Twyman, Dick's son, had eight top-10 finishes in the NBC World Series.

After the summer of 2008, the Twymans were looking to move to an area where their players would face better competition while giving their players more exposure to professional scouts.

The Twymans passed on offers from other West Coast locations and decided on Haysville. The Heat didn't field a team in 2009 while the Twymans organized the move, finding sponsors, a home field and a league.

"There's no way you can go through a season, get done in August and make the move that we made," Dick Twyman said. "It was a very expensive move and very time-consuming to get out here and put this program together. There's no way you could have done it.

"We had reservations about whether we did the right thing by taking off a year, now we're very happy we did."

The Heat are ahead of such Jayhawk teams as the El Dorado Broncos, the defending NBC World Series champions, and Liberal, which finished third.

Given extra time to build a roster, the Twymans didn't stray from their usual philosophy of finding strong pitchers that would create a deep staff to prepare for a long tournament.

The team's top two pitchers are David Harden and Tucker Stone, who are teammates with Southern Polytechnic State in Marietta, Ga. But the Heat have found a new area of strength, as they lead the Jayhawk in home runs.

Though the Heat have their share of major Division I players, their roster includes players from schools such as Arkansas Tech, Embry Riddle, Lindenwood and Bluefield College.

"That's the way we do it every year, nothing has changed," Dick Twyman said. "We found out that by doing your D-Is and your best D-IIs and the best in NAIA, that's the best combination for chemistry. Many years it seemed like we had nothing but D-I, and the chemistry wasn't there."

Two tourneys — Kansas teams will have two tournaments in which to qualify for the NBC World Series.

The Midwest Regional begins today. The Mid-Kansas Collegiate Regional will begin in Hutchinson on July 24. The winners of each tournament qualify for the NBC World Series.

Two teams in the Midwest Regional have already qualified: the Valley Center Diamond Dwags earned a bid by winning the Walter Johnson playoff title. The El Dorado Broncos earned a bid by winning the NBC title last summer.

Defending Midwest Regional champ El Dorado is the No. 1 seed while the team it defeated in the final last season, the Elite Sluggers, is the No. 2 seed.

The tourney will end Wednesday, unless the unbeaten team loses, in which case the tourney will end Thursday.