Sweat beads trickle down his nose and drip onto the red dirt. Squinting, he looks into the eyes of his opponent, the pitcher, and places the bat above his shoulder, ready to hit. The catcher signals to the pitcher and hits his glove opening it, ready for the pitch. The batter paws his feet on the ground and his cleats dig into the packed dirt as the pitcher lifts his leg and releases the ball flying towards him.
The ball comes in slow motion and the batter can see the red stitches on the dusty white sphere as he swings through. He feels the hit vibrate through his body and takes off after the sport he loves – baseball.
“I love baseball; I love all sports for that matter,” Jack Roberson, the man responsible for bringing baseball to Karnes City High School 41 years ago, said recently. “It was a dream come true.”
Baseball was added to the Badger athletic program in 1971, but it met with opposition at first. In fact, Roberson – active with Little League – ran for the school board solely to push for organized baseball. With persistence, the board finally approved it. To commemorate all baseball alumni, the 2nd Alumni Baseball Game will be held Saturday, March 17, at Curtis Perkins Field, beginning with a hit-a-thon at 10 a.m.
“Every successful program begins with tradition,” Wayne Burson, who organized the first alumni game last year and also this year’s, said. “I have always enjoyed playing and watching baseball as a kid and as an adult. I developed many friendships with coaches and players on and off the field.”
One of those friendships included the late Curtis Perkins, for whom the baseball field is named. He and Mr. Burson’s son Colby, a 2011 graduate, inspired the first-ever alumni game last year.
“Colby was a four-year letterman for the Badger Baseball team, and it was important to me that it (his senior year) begin and end on a positive note,” Mr. Burson said. “It was also to honor the late Curtis Perkins.”
Back in the early 1970s, an assistant football coach and teacher, Coach E.M. Kotzur, was asked to take on the fledgling baseball program.
“It was pretty tough there at first. I know there were some citizens within the community who wanted it,” Coach Kotzur, now 67 and retired after 33 years as an educator, said in a telephone interview from his home in Willis. “I was lucky enough to be asked to coach the team.”
Lack of support is no longer the case.
“KCISD administration and baseball coaching staff have been very supportive,” Mr. Burson said. “As a Badger baseball player, I learned leadership, self-discipline, pride and great work ethic. These values learned in Badger Baseball have also helped mold my son Colby into the man he has become today. My hope is that Ty, my 8th grader, who is already demonstrating these outstanding qualities, will follow in our steps and continue the Badger Baseball tradition.”
Until the field was built, in those early years, the team played at the City Park Field.
“The bad thing about the City-Park Field was the fence was only 290 feet and any good hitter is going to jack it out,” Coach Kotzur recalled. “That happened quite a bit until the new field was built.”
Twenty boys came out the first year, and Kenedy and Poth were some of the toughest teams the players faced.
“Kids worked hard and were raised well; the politeness was always there,” Coach Kotzur said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
All Badger baseball alumni are encouraged to come out and enjoy the day, along with reliving old memories. At last year’s game Feb. 12, 2011, 63 players signed up and 48 played. The oldest baseball alumnus was Karnes City resident Jerry Buehring, Class of 1973; the youngest was Jordan Buehring, Class of 2010. Ray Solis and Kirk Green from the Class of 1970 attended too; however, baseball had not yet officially begun at KCHS.
“I wanted the ones who played Little League to have a chance,” Roberson said, noting that professional scouts eyed some Karnes City boys.
Mr. Burson added that the alumni game is open and free to the general public, and concessions such as fajitas, hamburgers, nachos and drinks will be sold.
Coach Kotzur probably won’t make the game because he’s been battling “bad left knee,” but Mr. Roberson hopes to attend.
“We always tried to do a good job,” Coach Kotzur said. “I think the baseball program has really progressed. If we had anything to do with the future of the program by starting it, then we’re satisfied.”
KCHS Sophomore Lauren Kelley participates in Feature and Editorial Writing for the UIL Journalism Team.