Summer college baseball: Bombers turn 5
Bringing a summer college baseball team to Sedalia had been a dream for Smith-Cotton graduate Jud Kindle for years.
With opening day set for June 1, the Bombers are set to begin their fifth season.
The task of bringing a team to town was not an easy one for Kindle.
He began his quest in 2006 but he had the idea in 2002 when he played for a team in Beatrice, Neb.
“Beatrice wasn’t a big town,” Kindle said. “It had a population of about 10,000. I thought if Beatrice could do it, Sedalia could, too.”
Kindle went to the Sedalia Parks and Recreation Department board to make a presentation about bringing a MINK League team to Sedalia.
“They weren’t sure that’s a route they wanted to take,” Kindle said of his 2006 meeting.
In an attempt to draw interest in a summer college team locally, Kindle brought the Chillicothe Mudcats, a team he managed in 2008, to Sedalia for a game against Mac-N-Seitz, of Kansas City, that summer.
“We had 800 people at that game, it was packed,” Kindle said. “We put on a fireworks show.”
After the game, the parks department gave the green light for the Bombers.
The team received a one-year probation period so the board could re-evaluate.
The rest is history.
The Bombers have enjoyed a lot of success in their first four seasons of existence.
They have won the MINK League South Division title three times, won the MINK League Championship Series once and played in the national tournament twice.
In their first season, the Bombers won the South Division title and advanced to the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan.
The 2010 season was the Bombers’ most successful.
The Bombers rolled to the South title, going 35-8 and beating second-place Nevada (Mo.) by 12 games.
They won the MINK League championship series and finished seventh at the national tournament.
The 2011 season wasn’t as successful for the Bombers, who went 24-18 and came in second in the South.
They finished in a tie with Nevada at the top of the South standings but Nevada held the tiebreaker.
Last year, the Bombers may have had their most exciting finish to a season. They went 24-21 and won the South in unbelievable fashion.
With nine games remaining, the Bombers were below .500 and in third place in the South.
They won eight of their final nine games and clinched the championship when Joplin beat Ozark 2-1 on July 19.
They beat Ozark 6-4 the night before to move into sole possession of first place for the first time that season.
Sedalia entered the final week of play three games behind first-place Nevada.
They tied Nevada for first after a doubleheader split against Clarinda (Iowa).
That was the first time all season that the Bombers were in first place.
However, the St. Joseph Mustangs won a best-of-3 series with the Bombers to win the MINK championship.
The Bombers qualified for the national tournament by winning the South but didn’t go because several players were suffering nagging injuries and Kindle wanted to make sure that they were ready for the fall college season.
Besides winning championships, another sign of success for the Bombers has been the number of players drafted by major league teams.
Kindle said that bringing that caliber of a player to Sedalia is important for the future of the Bombers.
“Our name’s starting to get out there,” Kindle said. “It’s a great fan base, our host families are better than anyone’s. Our stadium’s beautiful. ... Kids are going back and telling others.”
Having players who are drafted and moving on to pro baseball makes more players interested in playing for the Bombers and keeps the fans coming.
Fifteen Bombers have been drafted by a major league team over the program’s first four seasons.
From the 2009 squad, Dominic D’anna and Pat Doyle were drafted by the Cincinnati Reds.
Dallas Hord was drafted by the then-Florida Marlins, and Bubby Williams was selected by the Houston Astros.
In 2010, the Giants drafted Kyle Hardy — who stayed in college and came back to the Bombers for two more seasons — and Mike Kickham.
The Boston Red Sox drafted Matty Johnson and the Colorado Rockies took Dan Kickham.
Mike Kickham pitched for the Giants in the preseason this year, according to Kindle, and Johnson went 1 for 2 in three games with the Red Sox.
In 2011, Jose Behar was drafted by the Marlins, Johnny Eierman by the Tampa Bay Rays, Travis Henke by the Washington Nationals and Michael Wolford by the Rockies.
Last season, Kevin Medrano, who played on the 2009 squad, was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Lee Stoppelman was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, and Anthony Renteria, who played for the 2010 team, was drafted by the Padres.
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