It used to be sugary soda that fueled Pat Hon through the two weeks of the National Baseball Congress World Series.
When Hon isn’t pitching for an alumni team or managing the Valley Center Diamond Dawgs, he is still at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium working for the tournament’s grounds crew rebuilding the pitcher’s mound after every game in the evening.
This all coming after he clocks out of his day job as an assistant general manager at ProBuild, a supplier of building materials based in Valley Center, and aside from his duties as a husband and father of two.
He has played, coached, and worked in the tournament for the last 10 years, but at age 35, Hon made a drastic decision that has made this summer different than the rest.
“I picked a bad time to cut out Mountain Dew and Rooster Booster,” Hon said. “I guess I didn’t really think that one through.”
Hon prefers life this way though, constantly on the go.
He gave up coaching collegiately a few years ago to spend more time with his children, who are 3 and 5. But he’s still found a way to stay involved in the game, remaining as manager of the Diamond Dawgs and giving lessons on a weekly basis at Impact Sports Wichita.
During tournament time, Hon wakes up at 6 a.m. to go to his day job. He’ll go from there to the ball park, around 4 p.m., and often times stay until 1 a.m. That mean he’s going for 18 straight hours most days.
Sometimes, when his team is playing at night, Hon will build the pitcher’s mound and then race to the clubhouse and emerge minutes before game time — in uniform and ready for the next game.
“I don’t do this because I need the extra money, I do it because I love the game,” Hon said. “I get to be around baseball. I get to watch baseball. I just think the NBC is an awesome thing and I want to be involved in it as much as I can.”
Hon remembers when he knew he wanted to be a part of the tournament. It was the first year he played in it, in 1998 when he was a sophomore at Southern Illinois.
Hon would later transfer to Newman, where he finished his career as a two-time, first-team NAIA All-American pitcher.
“Next to playing in the College World Series, this is as good as it gets,” Hon said. “There are other good leagues to play in, but this is the only place where big teams from all over the country come and battle it out.”
Hon’s passion for the game has translated over into his managing career. The team he has coached in the summer has made it to the World Series every year since 2004, including the last eight with the Diamond Dawgs.
But that passion, which allows Hon to excel, isn’t exclusive to managing. He brings it to every aspect of his life.
“If you don’t have passion to be out here and do what we do on a day-to-day basis, you’re not going to be good at it and you’re not going to enjoy it,” said Kevin Jenks, general manager of the NBC World Series. “And Pat not only brings that passion here, but I think he just has a passion to do well in whatever he does.”
Whether it’s managing (Valley Center is in the winner’s bracket semifinals and play on Tuesday), pitching (he tossed a scoreless 1 1/3 innings in his last outing), or even rebuilding mounds, Hon strives to be the best.
Even if it means it all revolves around four hours of sleep.
“Every year at the end of it, I always say it’s my last year working it and I’m done,” Hon said. “But then I get that call two weeks before asking if I’m in and I always say yes. I guess I couldn’t imagine this thing going on down here with me not being involved in it somehow.”