After what would be described as the best campaign ever for the Dodge City Athletics, it's going to be an interesting time trying to top the 2012 season for the organization.
Historic was an understatement for the Athletics in their eighth season competing in the Jayhawk League.
The summer collegiate baseball team had been relegated to doormats as they tried to build from the foundation and slowly started to make strides into being contenders for the title.
The Athletics also made it to the National Baseball Congress World Series where they finished tied for seventh in the 32-team tournament, which changes its format this year to please the out-of-regional teams that have played in the past.
“There’s no more ‘The A’s is the last dog in the year anymore,’” said Athletics general manager Phil Stephenson. “We had a couple of missteps, but we’ve been getting better and better the last couple of years to where we get players who can compete in this league.
“Finishing seventh helps us put our name out there and it has people coming to us wanting to play. It’s a situation where you hope you are more choosy in who we could pick from, but you hope you make sure you get the right people. Time will tell from that, but now people will think about the A’s and that’s going to help change the image of everything.”
Michael Robbins, associated head coach of last year’s squad, will be leading the campaign on the field for the Athletics this season. Not only will Robbins and his coaching staff be working with a group of players trying to extend the organization’s current winning ways, they will also be helping individuals who may not have gotten the attention their college coaches needed to improve and were sent to play in the summer.
“It doesn’t mean they’re not good players and they can’t compete, it’s just they need more time to understand the college level,” Stephenson said. “We’ve had guys who were here that had been red-shirted and they showed how good of players they are; and others who showed they weren’t that good.
“We had a guy like Tim Anderson, who red-shirted last year, but he thought basketball was going to be where he would play. He came here and was able to show everything that he could do and now there’s a chance he could end up being drafted in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft.”
Stephenson said the best way to improve is to face good talent and to face that talent everyday.
“They learn to bring their best to the park everyday, and it helps them them grow up because they are away from home and many chances away from the environment they are used to being,” Stephenson said. “They also get to meet their host families for the first time tonight to help them settle in to the area.”
Seventeen of the 30 members on the roster are here with many of the rest expected to be in the next week to 10 days. Many players on the roster are currently playing in postseason regionals or World Series, so the roster may be a little thin at the beginning of the season.
“It’s a situation everyone starts short-handed,” Stephenson said. “There are a lot of teams that started this past week. We’ll start Monday with a couple of non-league games and then we’ll get right into league play. We just have to keep plugging along as we get players coming in after their (collegiate) postseasons.”
DODGE CITY ATHLETICS SCHEDULE
(Game time 7 p.m. unless listed)
3-4 – Owasso (Okla.) Angels. 5 – Liberal BeeJays. 7-9 – at Wellington Heat. 10 – Liberal. 11 – at Liberal. 12 – Hays Larks. 13 – at Hays. 14-16 – Derby Twins. 17-20 – Denver. 21-23 – at El Dorado Broncos. 25 – at Hays. 26 – at Liberal. 27 – Liberal. 28-30 – El Dorado.
2 – at Hays. 3 – Hays. 4 – at Liberal. 5-6 – Fort Collins (Colo.) Foxes (Saturday doubleheader). 7 – Liberal. 9-11 – at Derby. 13-14 – at Denver (Saturday doubleheader). 15 – Hays. 16 – at Liberal. 17 – Liberal. 19-21 – Wellington. 23 – at Liberal. 24 – Hays. 25 – at Hays.