It has been a dream 2013 for Johnson County Community College baseball coach Kent Shelley.
By CHARLES REDFIELD
Special to The Star
In January, Shelley was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Hall of Fame during the organization’s annual convention in Chicago.
“Being inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in Chicago was a wonderful and exciting experience for me,” he said. “This honor wasn’t about me but about the players, assistant coaches, administration and staff and my family.”
He is the first coach from Kansas inducted into the organization’s hall of fame.
Shelley will be entering his 27th season as the Cavaliers’ baseball coach in 2014. He has had 15 teams that have won 30 or more games during his career. His coaching record is 780-505-1, and he needs just 20 wins to reach 800 for his career.
The Hall of Fame induction was a nice personal honor, but in late February he also saw his dream of a new baseball complex at the college become a reality.
“It has been a dream of mine for 26 years to build a state-of-the-art classroom/baseball field that would enhance the learning and skill development of the players and the community,” he said.
The first glimmer of that dream coming true came in October 2011 in a meeting with then-JCCC president Dr. Terry Calaway.
“We had a luncheon meeting to discuss how to improve infield drainage,” Shelley said. “Dr. Calaway asked me what my dream was, and I told him. He said he would go to work on it.”
And it wasn’t too long after that the JCCC Board of Trustees agreed to it.
“They broke ground in July of 2012, and we played our first game on the new field in late February of this year,” Shelley said.
The new field is completely AstroTurf. From a distance, it looks like dirt in the infield and on the mound, but closer inspection shows that it is actually brown synthetic turf.
“Everything is turf, even the pitcher’s mound,” Shelley said. “We also have two new dugouts that have heaters in the ceiling and storage units on each end.
“There is also new backstop netting, a new outfield wall and MUSCO lighting system.”
This is the first time that the Cavaliers have been able to play night baseball games. Shelley would like to host a metropolitan Kansas City high school all-star game in the future. And on the drawing board is the completion of his dream.
He is looking for an individual or corporation that would like the naming rights to the stadium complex.
What Shelley would also like to see is a 1,000-seat seating area, an enclosed pressbox, a clubhouse with public restrooms, a concession stand and an umpires room.
Shelley, a former Pratt Community College and Kansas catcher, doesn’t see this happening next year, but sometime down the road.
“When it is done, we will have the best community college facility in the country,” he said. “Then we can go after regional and national tournaments.”
And he isn’t just thinking about community college events, but NAIA and NCAA tournaments.
He can dream, can’t he?