Future the main focus in summer league baseball
As Eudora baseball coach Dirk Kinney guided the Cardinals to what would be the school's first-ever state tournament appearance earlier this year, he was also working behind the scenes. The work being done was not as noticeable as the tournament run was, but in the long run, it may be just as important.
Kinney was working for the future.
Kinney has been working since early May to put together a summer squad consisting of incoming freshmen. It's an attempt to guide the new Cardinals into the future and perhaps toward a repeat of what was accomplished in the state tournament in Salina.
To do that, the head coach has started with those who will be new faces around the halls of Eudora High School in the fall.
"I felt we had good coaches for the older kids and I wanted to help prepare them for the future," Kinney said. "I've always wanted to go real young and this is the youngest I've gone. It's been real enjoyable."
Kinney's team consists of incoming freshmen who are competing now for future spots in what has become a strong program over the last four years.
The Cardinal freshman team consists of some familiar names including Evan Cleveland, brother of former second baseman Miles Cleveland, and some new names as well, like freshman catcher Colton Lynch.
Names aside, however, the team's goal is to get fundamentally better over the course of the summer and prepare for the future.
As someone who has coached kids for quite some time, Kinney knows that getting better is a process and will take some time.
"We've had a lot of good days and a lot of bad days," Kinney said. "That's what happens when you have 13- and 14-year-old kids out there. They're not consistent. That's what we're working on. When they get older, they'll get more consistent."
The freshman Cardinals have been playing and attempting to get better since the early parts of May and the squad has garnered some success on the field, which makes the improvement phase that much easier.
The team completed a stint as runners-up in the Mid-America Youth Baseball tournament in Olathe last week and will move on to compete in the state tournament this weekend in Shawnee at the Mid-America Youth Complex on Interstate 435.
The competition, which begins Thursday, will include 40 teams from around the state and will be a definite test for the team.
"It will be a test of endurance," Kinney said. "There's going to be all those teams and a few days' worth of baseball, but it will be good for them and a lot of fun. I just hope I have the pitching to last all four days."
While the head coach knows winning in this week's tournament would be a huge boost to these future varsity Cardinals, the goal remains improvement, and as far as baseball in Eudora is concerned, summer is the time to do it.
"Summer is definitely where we get better," Kinney said. "The spring season is so short in the state of Kansas. This is the time we need. These kids are showing signs of improvement. They're learning the signs, the plays and a lot of aspects of the game. It makes it a whole lot easier when spring does roll around. They'll feel a lot more prepared."