Butch Foster Memorial Baseball Classic starts today
When Bonner Springs High School decided to start a basketball tournament back in 2004, the only goal was to create an opportunity for kids to experience a postseason atmosphere early in the season.
BSHS athletics director Garold Baker never envisioned it would become such an addiction.
The school also plays host to the Bonner Springs Wrestling Tournament, and now it's about to add a baseball tournament to its resume.
The inaugural Butch Foster Memorial Baseball Classic will take place today through Saturday at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, the home of the Kansas City T-Bones of the Northern League. The eight-team tournament will allow high school teams to play three games in a professional stadium and get a taste of the big-league experience.
In addition to BSHS, other participating schools are St. James Academy, Perry-Lecompton, Holton, Spring Hill, Tonganoxie, Basehor-Linwood and Paola.
"I think it's going to be pretty fun; everybody's really excited about it," Baker said. "The coaches and ADs I've talked to say their kids are excited about it."
Basehor-Linwood coach Dave Svoboda concurred.
"We are playing three games at a gorgeous facility," he said. "I think that will be enough to sufficiently motivate the players, if they weren't already."
Baker said he got the idea of a baseball tournament after watching Lawrence Free State launch the River City Classic a few years ago. That tournament includes 24 teams that play games at Free State High, CommunityAmerica Ballpark and Hoglund Ballpark at the University of Kansas.
"I talked to some of the other ADs and said, 'Why don't we do something like this?'" Baker said. "And it didn't take long."
The T-Bones agreed to open up their stadium for the event. They will be in charge of concessions, and BSHS will run the scoreboard, the gate and T-shirt stand. Baker said Bonner Springs Mayor Clausie Smith will announce the games on Thursday, and announcers from the other participating schools will call games on Friday and Saturday.
Baker knows the BSHS staff has plenty of experience running tournaments, and he said he is grateful for their eagerness to help put on another event.
"I'll tell you, I couldn't ask for better help than I get at Bonner Springs," he said. "They jump on board. They are getting paid extra duty to do it, but it's not the pay. It's the fact that they take a lot of pride in Bonner Springs and what they're doing."
Although the tournament is being played in a professional stadium, admission will remain the same as a typical home game at a cost of $5 for adults and $3 for children. A tournament pass may be purchased for $12.
Baker said the tournament field is well-balanced, which should make for a more competitive atmosphere.
"We're excited about the schools we've got in," he said. "I know St. James and Spring Hill have good records, but there's no powerhouse in it, so anybody who's playing decent baseball could win it. It should be a lot of fun for all the schools."
- Staff writer Thor Nystrom contributed to this report.