Every year since 1955, 25 guys have accepted an invitation to spend the summer in Liberal Kansas. They don’t come to enjoy the cool mountain air or crystal clear mountain streams. They don’t come to frolic in the surf. They come to play the game they love, to play baseball for the Liberal Bee Jays. They come to get better and to get noticed.
Liberal has a population of about 20,000 people and is located a stones throw from the Oklahoma panhandle and about an hour away from the flat lands of southeast Colorado. The summer temperatures are extreme, the wind always blows and it is a long way between shade trees.
Bee Jays baseball is a big thing in Liberal, big enough that every year since 1955, 25 households have volunteered to serve as a host family. They do it because they love their Bee Jays. Crowd size at games ranges from a normal few hundred to a few thousand for special games, and they don’t come to sit on their hands, they enthusiastically cheer the Bee Jays to victory or we’ll get them tomorrow.
They play National Baseball Congress (NBC) approved baseball in the Jayhawk Conference. All the guys are college players, some from major college programs, some from obscure Jr. college programs. One of this year’s Bee Jays got there late because he was helping the Arizona Wildcats win the College World Series. While they are in Liberal, it makes no difference where they are from, they proudly wear the powder blue and red, and they are Bee Jays.
I won’t bore you with stats but 165 former Bee Jays have played major league baseball. Mike Hargrove was there in 1972, Ian Kinsler in 2001. When Mike Hargrove resigned as a major league manager in ’07 he came back to Liberal and managed the Bee Jays for a couple years.
At season’s end the players may leave Liberal but they will always be a part of the hosts’ families and will always be Bee Jays.
I looked at a little bit of interstate and a lot of two-lane asphalt since my last visit with you. I took the long way to Liberal; I watched a couple ballgames and met more than a couple very nice people. You wouldn’t know it from reading what I write but I am a little bit shy and reluctant to initiate conversation with people I have never met. I didn’t need to initiate contact in Liberal; in the first half hour I was at the ballpark numerous people approached me. They introduced themselves and made me feel very comfortable. Cale’s host had me in their home for dinner. Much like the players I will always be a fan of the Bee Jays.
Cale has committed to attend school and play baseball for the West Virginia Mountaineers next year. He has returned home to spend some time with his family and to prepare for the move to Morgantown, but he will always remember his time as a Bee Jay and could return to Liberal next summer.
I got home Monday and the road of life has been bumpy the past couple days. I think it is because of the holiday, I’ve learned to expect them to be a little tough, next week will probably be better.
Please keep me in your prayers.
Good Night and God Bless.