NBC Baseball

NBC will ‘get creative’ as chairman says World Series will never fully return downtown

Todd Glaze came to work a couple of days ago and fielded a question he was surprised to hear.

“What are you going to do with your vacation without the NBC this year?” Glaze’s coworker asked.

Todd and Ruby Glaze have come to the NBC World Series for 20 years since moving to Wichita. When Todd started at his job, he received the standard two weeks’ vacation. He used both weeks to go to Lawrence-Dumont Stadium every day to watch some of the best summer college baseball teams in the country compete for a championship.

He sat in section 110, row E with his scorebook in front of him and his feet kicked up. He was doing it again Saturday afternoon like he told his coworker he would.

“I love this tournament so much,” Glaze said. “It’s well-run. We’ve got really good teams with college players who might go on to play Major League Baseball. This is my ‘staycation.’ “

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Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

The NBC World Series is not at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in 2019. The downtown Wichita ballpark was torn down after 84 years of service. But that didn’t meant the event was called off — it simply changed addresses, and NBC chairman Matt Rogers said it has likely done so for good ... at least in part.

The 2019 NBC World Series is at Wichita State’s Eck Stadium, a fact the staff has worked to drill home to those interested in the two-week tournament. It kicked off Saturday as the Derby Twins beat the Jasper Reds (Indiana) 7-1 behind some outstanding pitching.

At the 1:01 p.m. first pitch, there were only about 100 people in the stands. But the move to Eck Stadium was well-publicized and marketed. On the NBC World Series website’s homepage, it says, “Future of a baseball tradition.”

Instead of renderings of the downtown stadium, which is projected to be ready by spring, the website features a panorama of Eck Stadium.

Eck Stadium isn’t a one-year mercenary that will bear the NBC World Series. Rogers said with the Miami Marlins’ AAA affiliate set to come to Wichita, Eck Stadium will continue to serve as a second site for the tournament. It is not feasible to think a minor-league team will be away from home for 14 days, Rogers said.

That will bring questions of renting two venues at once for two weeks, but Rogers said the NBC World Series will find a way.

“This tournament has made it for 85 years, and it’s not just the location that has made it happen,” Rogers said. “The entirety of the tournament will never be back downtown. We’re going to have to be creative with what we do.”

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Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

NBC World Series fans like the Glazes are content with the move. Lawrence-Dumont needed to go, they said; it was falling apart. Across town, Eck Stadium is one of the premier college baseball facilities in the country, Derby Twins coach Bill Shaw said.

Shaw has been with the Twins in some capacity since the mid-2000s, he said. He has helped take the Twins to the NBC World Series 12 times in 15 years. He said Lawrence-Dumont will always hold a place in his heart, as it does for all involved, but Eck offers something different.

“Like Lawrence-Dumont, this place has so much tremendous history,” Shaw said. “So many great pros have come through this stadium. It’s just a great place to play baseball.”

Rogers said bringing the World Series to Eck Stadium isn’t only good for the NBC but also WSU. With college baseball players coming into the ballpark and many local high school players getting a chance to step foot on Tyler Field, it can only help recruiting in a time of hopeful revival of the Shockers baseball program.

But that won’t matter if fans don’t know the NBC World Series is still happening without a downtown stadium. Although more fans filed into the bleachers throughout the opening game, Glaze’s conversation with his coworker is one staff members have had to have many times, too.

Glaze said since the Kansas Stars, a team that featured several MLB players, stopped coming to the event, he has seen fewer people at the games.

He said he is OK with that.

“Not a lot of people come maybe because it’s hot, but over the 20 years I’ve come to this, I’ve met so many people,” Glaze said. “At Lawrence-Dumont, I knew where everyone sat, so I’m starting to look around trying to find their new seats at Eck now.”

While Eck Stadium doesn’t yet offer the nostalgia of Lawrence-Dumont, it probably will eventually. It will have to become home, Rogers said.

“Leaving Lawrence-Dumont was hard,” he said. “But it’s not as hard when this is where you move to, somewhere like Eck.”

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Wichita Eagle preps reporter Hayden Barber brings the area updates on all high school sports while adding those hard-to-find human-interest stories on Wichita’s student-athletes.