Four baseball games on Tuesday highlight the opening night of the Ban Johnson Summer Collegiate League’s 90th anniversary season, which will showcase Kansas City-area standouts through July.
Nico Codemo of the BJ Raiders, a catcher and the league’s Hustle Award winner last year, says he relishes the opportunity to hone his skills during the summer competition.
“I love playing baseball every single day,” said Codemo, a graduate of Warrensburg (Mo.) High who now plays at Park University. “Summer ball is a little more relaxed. I always try and play at a higher level. I want to win every single game.”
Two games kick off the season at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Mid-America Sports Complex in Shawnee. Seaboard will face Edelman & Thompson (Fenway field) and the Milgram Mustangs battle the MSBL Royals (Royal field). At 8:30 p.m., YBC Baseball meets the BJ Raiders, while the NKC Apartments Giants play Regal Plastic.
Eight teams will compete in a seven-week regular season and the summer action culminates in a four-team playoff to determine a champion.
Ban Johnson is Kansas City’s summer collegiate baseball league. Founded in 1927, the league features area college players on eight teams that play throughout the KC area. A highlight of each season is the annual All-Star Game, hosted by the Royals before a Royals game at Kauffman Stadium.
David Cone, Rick Sutcliffe and Frank White are among the Ban Johnson alums who have progressed to outstanding Major League Baseball careers.
This year, the league aims to complete its regular season by July 16 and crown its champion by July 28. The Ban Johnson League’s Annual All-Star game will be in July at Kauffman Stadium.
Among the new looks for the Ban Johnson League this summer are a new sponsor, a new team, two new managers, a new rule and three new game locations.
The new sponsor is Edelman & Thompson, which takes over the defending-champion squad formerly sponsored by UMB Bank. The new team is YBC Baseball, led by one of the league’s two new managers. YBC will be managed by Kyle Clifton, a Ban Johnson League MVP in 2012 and 2013. Seaboard manager John Novotny, an assistant baseball coach at Baker University, is the league’s other new manager.
A new league rule states that the maximum roster size increases from 25 to 30 players. Three new field locations also have been added to the summer schedule: the baseball diamonds at Rockhurst University, William Jewell College and the University of St. Mary in Leavenworth.
Other league game sites are Mid-America Sports Complex, 3&2 Stadium, Macken Park and Liberty and Liberty North high schools.
In addition to Codemo, other standouts returning to the league include three Rockhurst University players who were award winners last season.
Wylson Lamb of Regal Plastic, a Blue Springs South High graduate, was the league’s stolen base leader and won his team’s hustle award.
Bishop Miege graduate Garrett McNally returns to the MSBL Royals after being named their MVP last year. Jeremy Lufft, meanwhile, is back for the NKC Apartments Giants a season after his team hustle award honor. Lufft is a graduate of Blue Springs.
Longtime league manager Cary Lundy, who will lead Edelman & Thompson this season after 30 years at the helm of UMB Bank, has won seven league titles and is nearing a Ban Johnson League milestone. One more title would tie him with Alex Nigro and Lew Denny for the all-time league career mark of eight championships. During the school year, Lundy coaches at Park University, where he has led the Pirates to 376 career victories.
The league will cap its 90th anniversary season with a BJ90 Alumni Golf Classic, scheduled for Aug. 28 at Shoal Creek Golf Course. The four-person scramble golf event features four Ban Johnson alumni honorary co-chairs: Cone, Sutcliffe, White and Roger Twibell.
For more information about Ban Johnson, check out www.banjohnson.com.