By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
With one day to go before the Saints play at the NJCAA College World Series, the Saints have been participating in a number of activities.
After traveling through Denver, practicing at Metro State and taking in a Rockies game, the team headed on to Grand Junction, Colo.
The team practiced again on Thursday and had pictures taken. The Saints ate lunch with the Kiwanis Club who is sponsoring the Saints at the tournament.
Seward participated in a youth clinic Thursday and will practice again today before a banquet for all the teams.
Saturday there will be a cook-out at noon, and then it’s time for baseball at 8:30 when the Saints play Iowa Western.
“There’s a lot of excitement,” Seward coach Galen McSpadden said. “The kids are excited. There’s going to be a lot of people watching that feature game.”
Sam Pulizio Stadium seats 12,000, and it is likely to be full when Seward plays Iowa Western as the opening day feature game.
Reaching the national tournament was a goal for all the Div. I NJCAA baseball teams at the start of the season. Only 10 earn their way to Grand Junction, and the Saints are one of them.
“This is the ultimate,” McSpadden said. “Kids came to Seward County because they felt it was a good program, they would get better and have an opportunity to win and have and to go to World Series. The signs are all good.”
Lonely week at Seward
Before the Saints could get there, however, they had to survive a lonely week on the campus of Seward County.
After wining the Region VI tournament, the Saints returned as students were clearing out of the dorms.
More importantly, the cafeteria was closed.
“Without saying a word, a number of people stepped up and helped feed our club the last four or five days,” McSpadden said. “To feed 30-plus guys for a week is costly, but Steve and Becky Helm organized it. I would like to give a special thank you for those people that stepped up.
“That’s just one more reason I have stayed in Liberal for 30 years. They are good people, they step up and you didn’t even ask for it, they respect the college and its athletic programs. This was great.”
Tightening the lug nuts
After a slow start to the 2011 season, the Saints put together a strong run at the end of the season, turning in a 25-3 record and qualifying for the national tournament.
According to McSpadden, the Saints have not only accomplished something special, but they have a real chance to achieve an even higher goal — if disaster doesn’t strike.
“The table is set, but you never know how something like this will affect somebody until they go through it,” McSpadden said. “We feel that they are going to have the proper approach and will add to their effort and not distract from it.”
In the modern era of technology, music and the Internet is only a click away. Distractions can come in a text message.
“There are certain places we don’t allow phones,” McSpadden said. “Technology is technology and people are people. If we feel there is a distraction we stop it. Halfway through the season we told the guys if they police themselves, that is the beginning of a champion. We haven’t had to do much. They are focused.”
Still, McSpadden knows the game of baseball, and he knows that what may look good in one inning can end in disaster.
“A wheel can come off at any time,” he said. “We are hoping that the lug nuts are tight and the rubber is good, and we don’t have a blowout.”