As a few sprinkles ended Saturday morning, 23-year-old Elijah Ming stood in the parking lot at CommunityAmerica Ballpark with other early arrivals for a shot to make the Kansas City T-Bones.
The three-hour tryout started at 11 a.m., but Ming was ready to enter the stadium at 9:30. Ming grew up in Kansas City, Kan., graduated from Schlagle High School and played college baseball at Wayne State and Avila University.
Like the 44 other players who showed up for the annual tryout that the T-Bones hold every spring, Ming wants to play baseball professionally. The game is in his blood.
“It is camaraderie you have with your teammates, the field, the smell of the crisp grass and the fans loving on you,” Ming said. “I don’t get excited for anything else.
“I loved it. I embraced it.”
Many films and books have waxed poetically about baseball. And since the T-Bones arrived in Kansas City, Kan., in the spring of 2003, the organization has offered its field of dreams.
In the first 11 open tryouts, only three players have made the T-Bones roster, and 10 have been invited to the spring-training camp.
Despite those long odds, 45 players, mostly in their early to mid-20s, arrived Saturday and paid either $85 or $100 for the opportunity to advance their baseball careers to an independent league baseball organization.
“Everyone has a dream,” said T-Bones pitching coach Bill Sobbe, who oversaw Saturday’s tryout. “In our country, everyone chases their dream because they can.
“The reality of baseball is eventually you can’t play, whether it is our level, high school level or college level. Some guys top out at 10 years old. Some don’t top out until they are 41, 42 years old like the big-leaguers.
“You can’t take away their dream, but sometimes you have to hit them with a dose of reality. You have a great dream, but there are other leagues you can play in, but you probably don’t have the ability to be a professional player.”
Nearly half the players who showed up were pitchers. Scott Schieve, 26, was another who came early, wanting to prove he has the stuff to pitch for T-Bones.
Schieve graduated from Olathe Northwest and played at Johnson County Community College. He is currently playing in a men’s league at Mid-America Sports Complex in Johnson County.
“We already got a couple of games in, so my arm is feeling pretty good,” Schieve said.
“I got hurt when I was in college. This is a good chance to get back into it before I am out of my prime. I am definitely going to show everything I got. I am not going to hold anything back today. I am looking to dominate.”
Schieve, Ming and all the other pitchers threw in front of a former T-Bones pitcher who definitely knows what it takes to pitch at the professional level.
Now 35 years old, Jonathan Krysa, a native of Lee’s Summit, pitched for the T-Bones in their first five seasons. Before playing for the T-Bones, Krysa was in the Houston Astros organization and actually threw to former Royals catcher John Buck when they played at Class A Lexington.
Krysa has a good idea the things that were going through the players’ minds as they gave their best effort for the T-Bones coaching staff.
“It is every kid’s dream when they are playing little league, high school and college to get to the next level,” Krysa said. “Each level has its ups and downs. It is those guys who persevere and want it more than the next guy that actually make it to the next level.
“Granted, there are some things you need to happen like good health, doing well in the right situation. A lot of the times it is timing. A lot of things in life is timing.”
For the 45 players who showed up Saturday, they hope their time was right to be a T-Bone.
“Most of the players here today have played college baseball or some sort of pro ball,” T-Bones general manager Chris Browne said. “It is not like you are finding your diamond in the rough who was sacking groceries.
“The fun part about this (is) we will typically get one guy who is 60 or 70 who wants to say that he tried out for a pro team. You might get that guy who shows up in jeans and he can play a little bit. You get all kinds.”