For some families the end of the school year presents the opportunity to relax, go to the pool or take a nice summer vacation. But for others, even though the school year has ended, there is still much work to be done. For the Kansas Plowboys, a 12-and-under baseball team from the McLouth area that is "dedicated to the spirit of the Kansas farmer," like their farmer-inspired nickname, they are working to finish a job they started years ago.
Plowboys coach Kirk Patterson has a son who played baseball in Kansas City and the long hours of traveling to and from practices three times a week took a toll. Patterson then decided to start up a team a little closer to home.
"My intent was to get kids from rural areas to play baseball together," Patterson said.
The team originated four years ago, playing the 9U division and have since progressed through the ranks. Last year the Plowboys played in the United States Specialty Sports Association World Series in Omaha, Neb., but came up short, finishing in fifth place.
They ended the year ranked in the top 15 nationally. This year the Plowboys are ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 16 nationally.
The Plowboys team is made up of players from McLouth, Valley Falls, Tonganoxie, Piper, Bonner Springs, Shawnee and Leavenworth. The team has players who live in the city and the country.
Brett Shelton plays second base for the Plowboys and said the team's success is because of their team chemistry.
"I think we've been pretty good because we play really good together as a team," he said.
Shelton, in his second season with the club, said that the players do not put any added pressure on themselves when they take the field.
"Our team is based solely on having a good time," Patterson said.
While Patterson has coached the Plowboys to become one of the top teams in the state, he didn't play baseball growing up. Instead, he was heavily involved in motocross racing and worked for a number of years as a mechanic before changing direction.
Patterson studied the game of baseball and knew he wanted to continue his involvement with it.
"I fell in love with baseball," he said.
This season Patterson said the Plowboys will play in more than 80 games and tournaments and usually practice two times each week.
"It takes a big commitment to do it," he said. "You're pretty much giving up every weekend from the middle of March to the end of July."
Last weekend the Plowboys competed in a tournament in Branson, Mo. Patterson recalled that last year during a game there he went out to the mound and two players were talking about what they were going to do with their free time.
"It's a little about baseball and a lot about go-karts," Patterson said.
Patterson added that the goal was to win every game, but he knows winning, development and having fun are equally important.
"I'm strong on fundamentals," Patterson said. "If a person is going to commit the time to do it, you want to see some results. But the ultimate goal is to have a good time."
This summer the Plowboys are planning on competing in a postseason tournament in either Battle Creek, Mich., or Knoxville, Tenn.