Archive for Thursday, April 22, 2004

High school showcase maxed out at 26 teams

April 22, 2004


Who knows how these things get out of control? But the River City Baseball Festival has taken on a life of its own, to the point now that it simply is a 26-team behemoth scattered across Lawrence.

The third-annual, three-day high school baseball event is back, with the action officially starting at 3 p.m. today when Lawrence High takes on Raymore-Peculiar (Mo.) at Ice Field.

From there, the baseball madness goes berserk. Five more games are slated for today, including a 7 p.m. showdown at Hoglund Ballpark between Free State and Kansas City (Mo.) Winnetonka. Friday and Saturday will see 14 more games at Ice Field, Hoglund and Free State High.

"We've gotten a little bigger each year," FSHS coach Mike Hill said of the event. "I think this is as big as we can get."

It started so innocently, too. With Kansas high school baseball being handcuffed by a 20-game regular-season maximum -- a low number compared to surrounding states -- Hill and others started brainstorming ways to make the most of it. A three-day extravaganza where Kansas teams can play teams from surrounding states was born.

"I really think it raises the level of baseball in Kansas," Hill said. "Two years ago, we had a No. 1 draft pick playing in the tournament. We had scouts from every major-league organization coming to little ol' Lawrence to watch baseball."

Among those participating this year are three teams from the St. Louis area, four from the Missouri side of the Kansas City area, Omaha (Neb.) Creighton Prep and all 12 Sunflower League teams.

Blue Valley West, Kansas City Ward, Washburn Rural, Emporia, Blue Valley and Shawnee Heights all will be in town, too.

Both city schools will be playing out-of-state opponents only this weekend. After the Lions battle the Panthers today, they'll play Creighton Prep on Friday and Winnetonka on Saturday. Free State will play Chaminade Prep out of St. Louis on Friday, then battle Eureka (Mo.) Saturday. Eureka is led by shortstop Ryan Mantle, who is related to former New York Yankees great Mickey Mantle.

After Saturday's full slate of games, maybe -- just maybe -- Hill and the large fleet of volunteers will be able to rest.

Until then, forget about it.

"To bring 25 high schools in here is an awful lot of work," Hill said, "but if we can get Mother Nature to go along with it, we'll pull it off."

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