Summer Ball is Here Again!
The 90th anniversary season of the Ban Johnson Summer Collegiate Baseball League is underway, with a variety of goals among players and managers for the first two weeks of competition.
All eight of the Ban Johnson League's teams competed on opening night on May 30 and winners were the
Milgram Mustangs, Seaboard,
. Through games of June 5, the
were 3-0 and the
had scored a league-high 22 runs. The first meeting between the
is scheduled for June 13 at Missouri 3&2.
For the BJ League's players and managers, finding some initial chemistry and momentum is an objective. One player,
, says he is optimistic, given early observations.
"Each year it's a completely different team," said Lufft, a Blue Springs High School graduate who attends Rockhurst University. "I like the team chemistry on this year's squad. Everyone supports one another and we all have each other's back."
Lufft's goals also include more long-range ambitions, and he didn't mince words.
"Make the playoffs," Lufft said. "I've gone to the tournament three times, but we just haven't been able to finish. I want to win the playoffs."
Lufft also has another specific goal in mind and it involves the BJ league's showcase event.
"Personally, I'd like to play well enough to play in the all-star game and be a starter," he said. "I'd also like for my college coach to see me play well."
Managers, meanwhile, have more overview-type goals for the season's first two weeks. Their mission is to evaluate players, including some that are new and unfamiliar.
"My goal is to try and get everyone involved at some point, to measure and see what talent I have," said Jake Bradshaw, manager of the BJ Raiders. "They don't have stats, so the first couple of weeks I'm trying to see who will be starters and who will be backups."
Bradshaw added that he still had four players who were competing in the NCAA Division II and Junior College World Series, so he still has more evaluation yet to be done.
"That's good and bad," Bradshaw said.
who is a first-year manager for YBC Baseball -- a new team in the league, can offer perspective from both manager and player angles regarding early season goals. He is a two-time Ban Johnson Most Valuable Player, winning the award in 2012 and 2013 as a player for UMB Bank.
Speaking as a manager, Clifton says: "First and foremost, these guys are really young. The base of my team are freshmen coming back. Some of them didn't see much playing time."
Clifton says his mission is to get his players to come out of their shells and help "19 year-olds facing 22 year-olds" adapt to challenges.
"They have to adjust to seeing good pitching, get their timing down and get a comfortable feel with a wood bat."
Recalling his perspective as a former BJ player, Clifton said his early season goals were about camaraderie.
"As a player, I wanted to compete for my team," he said. "It was just go out and compete for the guy
next to you."