In his 30 seasons at the helm for the Saints, Seward County Head Baseball Coach Galen McSpadden has coached approximately 600 players that have worn the Saints green and white. When the idea of starting up an alumni weekend event was kicked around, McSpadden was excited but knew there would be faces return to Liberal that may have changed a bit in the past three decades. However, little did the Hall of Fame coach expect what would happen when the registration forms started pouring back in; players from before his arrival to Liberal excited to come back to their old stomping grounds. Four players from the pre-McSpadden 1970’s were on hand as well as nine players from the skippers first few years in the 1980’s, six 1990’s Saints made it back, and 13 from the Saints dominating teams of the 2000’s.
The weekend kicked off with an informal get together at Billy’s where former Saints filed in a little at a time and grew to a much larger crowd than first expected. The festivities continued Saturday morning as coach McSpadden took the group around campus to check out the new improvements and updates to the athletic facilities, dorms, and more. The tour sparked conversations about the days when many of the former Saints played at Brent Gould Field with a chain link outfield fence and bloodied hands thanks to goat head stickers lodged in their hands from picking up the ball on a play, a far cry from the best stadium and playing surface in the conference that the Saints play on today. After the tour was done the team laced up the cleats, probably didn’t stretch nearly enough, and hopped into the batting cage to take their first swings in years during batting practice. With players families and children chasing down balls in the outfield, the alumni team loosened up their swings and then it was on to the home run derby.
The derby was originally slated to have just seven contestants but with the wind blowing out and the competitive juices flowing, the number doubled to 14 by the time the first hack was taken. Josh McSpadden got things started with 3 out of the park in round one but was tied atop the leader board a short time later as former Saints pitcher Rafe Alvarez launched 3 tape measure shots. Tanner Rindels took over the lead when it was his turn as he crushed the first 3 pitches he would see over the right field wall and added another later to finish the first round with 4. Ryan Nelson, a favorite from the get-go thanks to an 18 home run season in 2003 hit 3 as the round came to a close and placed himself into the semifinals with McSpadden, Alvarez, and Rindels. With home runs from round one carrying over to round two the foursome again went to battle with aluminum pinging in the air. McSpadden went first and added a pair of bombs to his collection to take the overall lead with 5. Alvarez was up next and was knocked out of the competition after failing to carry over his round one momentum to the semis and finished with 3. Nelson was the third to go and put on another show as he did in round one with a trio of light tower shots to run his cumulative total to 6. The first round leader, Rindels, was the last to go in the semis and managed to get 1 out of the park to force a swing-off between himself and McSpadden to advance to the finals. McSpadden would put the pressure on quickly with a shot to left center on the second pitch he saw to put him ahead and Rindels was unable to add to his total as McSpadden moved to the finals against Nelson. As the two moved to the finals, an interesting story line made its way to the forefront as the pair not only played together their two years at Seward, but also moved on to play at the University of Texas-Arlington together for their junior and senior seasons. Nelson was the favorite, as the two had their slates wiped clean for the final round, after hitting 18 home runs during his sophomore season in 2003 while McSpadden hit in front of him with just 3. However, the two would be tied with 1 home run a piece after their scheduled round of five outs so another swing-off was in line. Nelson failed to leave the yard on his first OT swing and McSpadden took one off the scoreboard in left center to seal the deal and claim the 2010 Saints Baseball Alumni Weekend Home Run Derby Championship. For his victory, it was announced that McSpadden would receive a customized Louisville Slugger bat to commemorate the title while Nelson didn’t go home empty handed as he picked up an autographed Troy Tulowitzki photo for being the runner-up.
After the derby was completed everyone in attendance was treated to a cookout courtesy of Great Western Dining, Jerry Odle, and Bob Carlile. The food was hot and ready for go for anyone who wanted to get their hands on some classic ballpark cuisine in hot dogs and hamburgers, as well as some chips and something to drink.
After the food was down it was time for a game against the current Saints and shortly the 18-20 year old group in the home dugout would find out that these “old” guys could play a little bit. After Stu Schlemeyer opened the game with a long at bat a leadoff walk, Jeramie Simpson showed why the New York Mets made him a draft pick of theirs after his 1994 sophomore season at Seward as he launched a tape measure shot over the right field wall and onto the car barn to give the alumni team an early lead. Just three batters later the fireworks show was back on display as it was Rindels turn to show off his trot around the bases as he ignited a 1-0 pitch deep over the right center field fence to put the alums up 4-0. However, the alumni team apparently ran out of gas after that as they would fail to score in any of the next 6 innings before getting back on the board again in the 8th with a 3 spot. Much like the home run derby numbers grew in the last moments of registration, a number of alums that were planning to sit out the game itself decided to throw on a helmet and jump in the batter’s box with their shorts and tennis shoes on which made for a fun site and atmosphere for all of those in attendance. In all, 27 former Saints played in the game while a few others decided to resist the urge, and chance for injury, to enter the game. Just a few of the fun sights during the game included current Saints pitcher Jace Moore squaring off with his father Stu Moore at the plate, who played for the Saints in 1984, 2000 grad Manny Grajeda behind the plate for the alumni team while his brother Andres Grajeda took an at bat late in the game, Ryan Nelson playing for the alumni team against a player he coached during his high school years in current Saints 2nd baseman Jordan Dallalio, as well as the battles between 1984 grad Doug Robbins on the mound, against players that weren’t even born when he donned the Saints green and white, at the plate against him. In the end it wasn’t the score that mattered or the stats that were accumulated, it was the ear to ear smiles that were on the faces of the alumni and their families and friends in the stands for the 3 hours they were back on the turf at Brent Gould Field.
After getting cleaned up and ready to go for the night it was off to Billy’s for dinner, a silent auction, and a donation drawing for the bunch. A filling meal ensued and once the plates were polished clean it was time for classic and some untold stories to come out. With Cory Bieber leading things off and getting the group loosened up stories from every end of the spectrum came flying out. Stories of ruined hunting permission for their Head Coach, to parakeets in the dugout, to finding a way to remove skunks from the field were abound as laughter filled the room from former players and families alike. Once the stories that could be told out loud were finished, the group turned their focus to the silent auction and donation drawing where an abundance of high quality autographed baseball memorabilia was up for grabs. Thanks to Kelli and Terry Tiffee, Mike Hargrove, and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim bench coach Ron Roenicke, the alums had their shot at items such as a signed baseball of the reigning AL MVP Joe Mauer, a signed World Series Baseball from the 2009 MVP of the Fall Classic, Hideki Matsui, as well as a 25 card signed collection of the 1974 AL Rookie of the Year Hargrove, and much much more. Once all the ticket numbers were called, a wide variety of winners left the room happy and even those that didn’t happen to have their number called still left having had a great time.
The last thing left on the list for the weekend was the golf tournament bright and early Sunday morning at Willow Tree Golf Course. Eight groups teed off at just past 8:30, all looking to take home those final bragging rights for the year before heading their separate ways. After 18 holes of errant shots and a couple of balls in the fairways, the group met back up in the clubhouse as the winners were announced. The foursome of 1979 grads Craig Danforth and Steve Danforth as well as Bieber from 1986 and Gerry Danley from 1980 blew away the field with a score of -11 and were treated to their pick of a Saints hat, t-shirt, or sweatshirt for their win. The team of 1992 grad Mike DiOrio, 2002’s Ben DiOrio, Chad Hussey from 1991 and Clint Cowan from 1994 finished second and also received prizes after their round. Cowan also picked up a prize for having the longest drive on the 18th hole while 1990 alum Johnny Cardenas brought home the closest to the pin award for his shot on the 5th hole.
Planned relatively quickly and without much feel for what the response would be, the event by all was considered a major success. Not only did all that were involved have a great time, but the event also raised a nice amount of money to be put back into the Seward County baseball program that gave so many of these players a start to their careers in baseball. The former players that came back for the event were: Kent Brandon (’75), Randy Stoker (’75), Steve and Craig Danforth (’79), Gerry Danley (’80), Stu Moore (’84), Doug Robbins (’84), Ronnie Sumner (’84), Bill Harvey (’85), Travis Katzenmeier (’85), Cory Bieber (’86), Steve Paulino (’89), Chad Hussey (’91), Parker Lawrence (’91), Mike DiOrio (’92), Clint Cowan (’94), Jeramie Simpson (’94), Manny Grajeda (’00), Mike Smith (’00), Ben DiOrio (’02), Brad Masteller (’02), Josh McSpadden (’03), Ryan Nelson (’03), Curtis Hamilton (’07), Tanner Rindels (’07), Stu Schlemeyer (’07), Rafe Alvarez (’08), and Christian Kowalchuk (’08). Other Saints that contributed to the event were Noah Cortez (’02) and Bobby Doran (’09) who was unable to attend because of his Minor League Baseball teams playoff run. Also a big thanks goes out to class of 1999 graduate Scott Cadwallader who took care of all of the t-shirts for the event. With the success of the first year event and to the pleas of those that were there, Coach Galen McSpadden and the Saints plan to make the alumni weekend an annual event. When final dates are set for next year’s festivities, all former players will again be contacted via mail as well as any other resource available to let them know.

To All SCCC/ATS Alumni: It was great to get together finally after all of these years. The laughs, the stories, the memories, the games, and the golf turned out to be an outstanding inaugural SCCC/ATS Alumni Baseball Weekend. I must thank my son, Josh, Roy Allen our SID, and Brandie Jones, athletic department secretary, for initiating and putting this weekend together. I also must thank all of those who helped and donated to make the dinner, donation drawing, hamburger/hotdog feed enjoyable parts of a fun weekend. All of us here are looking forward to the future alumni weekends and hope that those who were able to make it this time will be able to return and those who did not will be able to attend. All of you alumni have helped build Seward County Baseball into a very successful and respected community college baseball program. I am very proud to have had the opportunity to have been one of your coaches and very proud of those whom I did not coach for helping make the program what it is today. I am looking forward to next years and only have two requests….invite the rest of your teammates and do a little running before you get here!

With All My Respect,
Galen McSpadden