For the first time in Kansas, the area’s recent high school graduates got a chance to shine under the bright lights of Clint Lightner Stadium in an All-Star game.
The 2017 Wild West Shootout high school baseball All-Star game took place Monday night at Clint Lightner, with the West team defeating the East, 12-8, in the inaugural game. Local Garden City baseball player Griffen Brunson took home MVP honors.
This was the first game of its kind, as there is no other All-Star game for graduated seniors in the state of Kansas, according to the game’s organizers. The Garden City Recreation Commission organized the event, and is hoping to expand further east in Kansas as the years progress.
There were six area baseball players who had the honor to represent the first ever West team. Those players were Lakin’s Colby Gugelmeyer, Holcomb’s Alex Ortega and Brandon Stegman, and Garden City’s Raymond Urrutia, Eric Heiman and the aformentioned MVP, Brunson. Representing the area from the East team was Moscow’s Jesse Stuckey.
Comprising the rest of the West team were players from Colby, Elkhart and Liberal. Also on the East team were players from Dodge City, Great Bend, Hays, Inman and Ellis.
The players were not the only familiar western Kansas faces, with former Garden City Buffaloes head coach Bill Wilson serving as manager for the West.
“It was April or May when Marcus Sabata (general manager of the Garden City Wind) approached me about it,” Wilson said. “They wanted to know if id be interested in coaching.”
There was little time for practice, though.
“We just got together and handed out some jerseys on Sunday, and that was the first time I’ve seen some of these guys,” Wilson said.
That was all the West needed, it seemed. The squad was able to break open the game in the second inning, scoring five runs in the frame. The East had originally taken a 1-0 lead in the second, but after a Brunson single brought in two runs, three more runs were added by the West, one of which was brought in by Garden City’s Raymond Urrutia with a sacrifice fly.
The third inning saw a plethora of runs as the teams combined for 10. The East brought in four runs to tie the game up at five, but the West quickly grabbed the lead back, sparked by Holcomb’s Brandon Stegman’s double to center, which brought in the sixth run for the West. Just like he did in the previous inning, Urrutia brought in the last run of the inning, which gave the West a 10-5 lead.
The two teams exchanged a couple of runs the rest of the way, but the West was in control, and cruised to win the first ever Wild West Shootout All-Star game.
Brunson, the game’s MVP, finished with three hits and two RBIs, which went a long way to help the West in the game.
“I did alright, getting three hits,” Brunson said. “It wasnt my best hitting performance, but it was fun going out there with these guys who are from the western part of the state.”
“It feels really good to be the first MVP,” he continued. “It really hasn’t sunk in much. It’s just another baseball game at the moment.”
Brunson will be playing for Garden City Community College to begin his collegiate career.
“We put some numbers on the board,” Wilson, who retired from high school coaching after the spring season, said about the West’s performance. “We did some things right. We ran the bases and put some pressure on them. The kids were real receptive to everything that we did. It was fun. It was good to see a lot of these kids that I have never seen before. It’s good to see other programs.”
When asked about coming back out of retirement for this game and being able to coach some of his old players again, Wilson said, “It’s the most relaxed I’ve been in a game in 35 years. Ive had a couple of groups in the past couple of years that are just good kids to be around and enjoyable to be around. That was a good part of it.”