Blake Ingram was expecting a calming weekend visit to his native St. Joseph two weeks ago. His relaxation ended when his friends from high school called him to fill in on their wooden bat summer league team.
“I’d take the chance to swing a wooden bat any day,” Ingram, a 20-year-old MU sophomore said.
The afternoon served as a source of both perspiration and inspiration. Ingram has decided to start a wooden bat league for players 18 and older in Columbia.
He thoroughly enjoyed the chance to hit the ball and run around the diamond again. It took him back to his days of playing center field at Central High School in St. Joseph.
Like his friends, Ingram had the chance to continue his baseball career at smaller colleges like Missouri Western and Northwest Missouri State.
But he declined the offers.
He wanted the learning opportunities of a larger university.
“It was a lot more important to me to get an education than play collegiate baseball,” he said.
Ingram consulted Bob Powers, the coach of his friends’ team and the president of the league in St. Joseph. He asked him how he could start one of his own in Columbia.
“Playing metal bat baseball and softball just isn’t the same,” Ingram said.
Columbia Parks and Recreation no longer offers a summer adult baseball league. They used to have games at Taylor Stadium but stopped when the Mid-Missouri Mavericks arrived in Columbia in 2003. Dwindling player interest was also an issue.
With a wood bat, “you’re finding a better sweet spot than a metal bat,” Ingram said. “It gives you a chance to use what the big leaguers do.”
And the bats the big leaguers use are also inexpensive.
Chris Blanton, a customer service representative at Rawlings Sporting Goods, Inc., in St. Louis, said that wooden bats are cheaper than aluminum ones.
Stores that stock wooden Rawlings bats usually sell them for $30-$40, he said. Aluminum Rawlings bats can retail from $50-$120, but Rawlings offers a one-year or more warranty on its aluminum bats. Wooden bats do not receive warranty protection.
“Aluminum bats will last longer than wood bats on average,” Blanton said. “But there’s no way really to tell how many wood bats it would take to equal an aluminum bat.”
For the past six seasons, the MU baseball team has played St. Louis University in a wooden bat game. The “Wood Bat Classic” was developed by Tigers coach Tim Jamieson to get players used to the wooden bats they will use in summer ball.
Ingram has continued to gather basic information and get money together.
Last week he sent notices to newspapers, but said that it has yet to be printed.
“I haven’t heard much of anything,” Ingram said. “I was expecting some calls within a week of the announcement.
“Maybe I’ll have to put fliers up around Columbia or run ads in the student papers. If it doesn’t work out this time, maybe next summer.”
His deadline for fees and field reservation is Aug. 1. Ingram said he is hoping to secure space at the American Legion fields or a local park.
“What I’m hoping for is at least eight teams,” Ingram said. “The bigger, the better.”
Under that plan, each team would play 16 games in eight weeks. The league would meet two nights a week.
The cost of the league is $80 per player. Ingram said that each team would have to have at least 10 players.
For more information, call Ingram at (816) 261-8948.