Monthly Archives: June 2010

Former Garden City CC defensive end Brett Spresser dies in grain elevator accident

Just got word that former Garden City Community College defensive end Brett Spresser has died in a grain elevator accident. It’s the second time this week tragedy has hit the Jayhawk Conference — Hutchinson Community College outfielder Sean Banks died in a grain elevator accident last Thursday.

Spresser, 21, was from Gem and played for the Busters in 2007 and 2008.  I interviewed him numerous times and it was obvious he had a way about him that made everybody comfortable. He seemed almost painted off some old football serial novel from the 1950s  — 6-foot-5 and almost 300 pounds but quick as a cat, dusty blonde hair and a mischievous look in his eye but a kind word for all who crossed his path. And man could he play.

My deepest condolences go out to Spresser’s family and my heart goes out to his beautiful baby girl — he’d recently become a father for the first time.

Spresser was part of GCCC football coach Lucas Aslin’s first recruiting class. When I contacted Aslin tonight the first thing he told me was what a great kid Spresser was and how much he’d be missed. Aslin, obviously, was torn up.

He will be missed, truly.


Wichita Wild gets boost from former KCAC stars



In a very short amount of time, the Wichita Wild have become, arguably, the most succesful pro football franchise to ever come to Wichita (and that’s on a long and undistinguished list),  and it’s been in no small part thanks to the team’s ability to mix local talent with players they bring in from all over the country. I covered the Wild’s 61-48 win over Bloomington last night in the first round of the Indoor Football League playoffs and I came away impressed with the talent that Wichita has brought in from the KCAC — mainly in former Bethel stars Brandon Kaufman and James McCartney — both former KCAC defensive players of the year. In fact, JMac won it twice. I love that the Wild aren’t afraid to put NAIA guys on their roster – especially ones that aren’t from traditional powers, of which there are none in the KCAC. In this case, McCartney may have been the best defensive lineman on the field in the game I watched, as he made plays from start to finish including a forced fumble and recovery that should have gone Wichita’s way. Kaufman was serviceable  in a defensive backfield loaded with Division I talent, meaning there was no drop-off when he was in. Also pitching in were former Friends linebacker Tanis Ready and former Tabor kicker Dylan Pohlman. I’d love to see the Wild pillage the KCAC for talent every year. We’ll see if it continues but you have to think that’s part of their recipe. And it puts some extra butts in the seats.

Rant, over.


ps. love this version. love it.

“…red white and blue upon a birthday cake/my brother he was born on the 4th of July…

Hutch CC outfielder dies in grain elevator collapse



Sad news today out of Russell — one of the two men killed in the collapse of a grain elevator was Hutchinson Community College freshman outfielder Sean Banks, 19, of Russell. Here’s the link to the story from the Hutch News.

Banks played in 1 game for the Blue Dragons this season as HCC made its way to a Region VI title and third place at the NJCAA World Series. Thoughts and prayers go out to the Banks family and the family of Max Greve, who also died in the accident.

Here’s the official statement from HCC:


By Steve Carpenter

HCC Sports Information Director

Hutchinson Community College freshman outfielder Sean Banks was one of two men killed on Thursday in a grain elevator collapse in Banks’ home town of Russell, Kan.

Banks and Fort Hays State University student Max Greve, both employed at the Russell grain elevator, were killed when a portion of the structure collapsed while both were unloading a semi filled with grain.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to Sean’s family during this tragic time,” HCC head coach Kyle Crookes said Thursday evening. “Sean was a tremendous young man who was a great teammate. We will miss him but Sean will always be a Blue Dragon.”

HCC president Dr. Ed Berger called the tragedy “A great loss.”

Banks was a freshman outfielder from Russell who played in just one game during HCC’s 2010 Region VI championship team that finished third at the 2010 NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., earlier this month.

In addition to playing on the Blue Dragon baseball team, Banks was heavily involved in other HCC student activities, including student government and was the 2010 HCC Spring Homecoming King.


Top 5 best sports novels (no, No. 3 is not a stretch)


1. The Sportswriter by Richard Ford (1986)

Ford’s sequel — Independence Day — won the Pulitzer, but this is the one that did it for me. Ford’s main character (I don’t think you can really call him a protagonist or an antagonist) is Frank Bascombe, a man devastated by the death of his son and the subsequent loss of his family due to his detachment from what remained. Writing for a thinly veiled Sports Illustrated-like magazine (Ford wrote for SI in real life), Frank’s struggle to live with his own poor decisions and the growing dark cloud looming over everything he does pushes him toward his ultimate fate. Is it The Great American Novel? One of them, at least.

“…if sportswriting teaches you anything, and there is much truth to it as well as plenty of lies, it is that for your life to be worth anything you must sooner or later face the possibility of terrible, searing regret. Though you must also manage to avoid it or your life will be ruined. I believe I have done these two things. Faced down regret. Avoided ruin. And I am still here to tell about it.” (p. 4)


2. Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and A Dream by H.G. ” Buzz” Bissinger(1990)

Football as religion. If Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is the greatest American non-fiction novel ever, this is No. 2.  No matter what you think you’re about to read going in, Bissinger flips your preconceived notions on their head and delivers a two-fisted assault on the senses. You are in Odessa. You feel the pressure that comes with each game. You learn the history of the people you come to care about so deeply. Finishing it the first time I felt a sense of loss because I knew that was an experience I’d never get to live through again. But wait! They made a movie! And a TV show! And neither sucked! Good looking out.

“When Boobie Miles returned to the football field, no one called out his name with those bellowing chants that had rocked the Watermelon Feed in a moment that seemed like a millennium before. There were no bursts of applause, no coach’s speech comparing him to the great Permian runners of the past, no take-your-sweet-time walk down the aisle of the
crowded high school cafeteria. In the space of five weeks he had become an afterthought whose past performance earned no special privilege and seemed largely forgotten.” (p. 194)


3. Underworld by Don Delillo (1997)

Is this Delillo’s Magnum Opus? I like to think it is. Beginning on October 3, 1951, this book shoots out of the gate by taking the reader inside Polo Grounds as Robby Thomson’s home run off Ralph Branca sails out of the park to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers 5-4 — “The Shot Heard ‘Round The World” — and the fate of the home run ball snakes its way through this labyrinthine story, the pursuit of which hovers over the lives of several of the key characters. Criticized for being overly-long, I wonder if those who said that had ever read Delillo before? Was he not building up to something like this over the course of almost 30 years? Interestingly enough, Delillo wrote another book about sports — End Zone (1972) — about a college football team in Texas that is on a lot of lists like the one you’re reading. Not that that’s a bad book, but I wouldn’t even put it in DD’s top 5.

“The dead have come to take the living. The dead in winding-sheets, the regimented dead on horseback, the skeleton that plays a hurdy-gurdy….Thomson is out in center field now dodging fans who come in rushes and jumps. They jump against his body, they want to take him to the ground, show him snapshots of their families.” (p. 49)


4. The Fight by Norman Mailer (1975)

Stephen King’s my favorite writer, ever. Nobody tells a story like him. But Mailer’s in my top 5. Gary Karr, who has worked on the sports desk since 1892, likes to tell a story about the night of this fight, when the phones at The Eagle rang so many times trying to find out the winner that at one point they were just picking up the phone, saying “Ali”, then hanging up. In the time the book was written, Ali and Foreman were looked at as almost modern-day superheroes, but Mailer strips that away and looks at their insecurities and fears. But Mailer’s the star here, even as he writes about two of the greatest fighters of all time. What was Mailer’s obsession with boxing? I can only think it had to do with his own confrontational, violent nature, the appeal of the sport, to him, was just too strong to deny. But the truth of why that attraction was so intense was also probably too much for even him to swallow. So he wrote about it. Better than paying a therapist, I suppose.

“Foreman’s arms flew out to the side like a man with a parachute jumping out of a plane, and in this doubled-over position he tried to wander out to the center of the ring. All the while his eyes were on Ali and he looked up with no anger as if Ali, indeed, was the man he knew best in the world and would see him on his dying day. Vertigo took George Foreman and revolved him. Still bowing from the waist in this uncomprehending position, eyes on Muhammad Ali all the way, he started to tumble and topple and fall even as he did not wish to go down. . .”

5. Surprise! By You, The Reader (2010)

I really like doing these lists, but not as much as I like hearing from you after you read them. So pick this spot for me — I had five different books here at different times and couldn’t decide on one, so you tell me. If I haven’t read it, I will. Give it a week or so and I’ll pick one and put it here. If it’s your suggestion that goes up, I’ll give you plenty of props right here on this very blog. (AND HERE YOU GO, VIA TRENT IN MCPHERSON)


I’m out. TA.

More on the KCAC’s future


My story on the (bright) future of the KCAC hit your newsstands today.

The long and short of it is that the league’s officials decided they were sick of seeing their schools get stomped on pretty much anytime they had to play anybody outside of their conference. Feeling hamstrung by their own archaic rules, they decided to do something about it, pushing through the Sports Regulation Initiative last week, which puts all the KCAC sports at the NAIA maximum for amount of in-season competition (aka how many games they can play) that will go into effect for all sports except football in the upcoming school year and then in football in 2011. The details are numerous (see the article) but I think it’s great. I hope it works. I’ve always been very fond of this league and I’ve been as disappointed as anybody to see them fall short in the postseason time after time, especially when I don’t think it’s a matter of having better athletes. It’s a competitive edge the rest of the NAIA has had over the KCAC for some time that just got wiped out.

Now about those scholarship limitations…


Breaking down Newman’s basketball recruiting classes



I was going back through some old e-mails and found myself getting stuck on a few from Newman about the men’s and women’s basketball recruits. All had the same effect: I was blown away by the talent both teams are bringing in … and that for the women it appears as if they’ve got a whole new team! Seriously, I don’t see any of the 9 recruits new coach Jaime Green is bringing in (including 2 Division I transfers) not grabbing a spot in the rotation. And that’s fair, because the Jets were terrible last year. When you’re a college coach the biggest problem when you come in is always dealing with the last coach’s recruits. Usually it takes a couple of years. Maybe not in this case.

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Friends hires Adam Neisius as baseball coach



The disaster that was the Friends University baseball team in 2010 was something to behold. 0-22 in KCAC play. 3-37 overall. A 29-game losing streak to end the year. Keep in mind that’s just three years removed from a KCAC title. Throw in the fact that the best baseball talent in Kansas resides in their backyard … and you get the picture.They were as bad as any team in the history of the league.

But there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel.

Friends hired Adam Neisius as its new baseball coach Tuesday, and it seems like he should be a good fit … but he’s obviously got his work cut out for him. Dude has been a head coach before — at Dakota Wesleyan from 1998 to 2008 — so that bodes well for the Falcons. Chris Elliott is all over this one for a story in Wednesday’s Eagle, and I’ll link to it here when it goes up online. We’ll also get a Q&A with the new coach up here sometime in the next week.

Out. TA.

Sunflower Slate Q&A: Washburn CB Pierre Desir



I caught up with Washburn defensive back Pierre Desir on Monday evening — he’s in Topeka for the rest of the summer getting ready for the Ichabods’ Aug. 28 opener against Colorado School of Mines. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound All-American and St. Charles, Mo., native  opened up about a lot of things, including expectations for his upcoming sophomore season, his pro prospects and his family coming to the U.S. from Haiti when he was 4 years old. He also talked about the impact that the January earthquake in Haiti had on his family that still lives there. I’m not about to mince words: This was one of our best Q&As yet.

Here you go:

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Top 5 best & worst baseball movies

Since it’s summertime, we’ll probably do this once a week or so … that is, topics that have nothing to do with what we usually cover at Sunflower Slate. Live a little, you know?

Today: Top 5 Best & Worst Baseball Movies. Please keep in mind that 1) It’s only my opinion and 2) All you need is a loose connection to baseball to qualify your movie.


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ESU’s Sheeley, Brattin playing for NPF’s Tennessee Diamonds



Here’s the thing about Sunflower Slate — once you’re with us, we’ll roll with you wherever you go … in this case, all the way to National Pro Fastpitch.

Former Emporia State players Samantha Sheeley, a pitcher, and catcher Aubree Brattin are both on the roster for the Tennessee Diamonds of the NPF, a new (kind of) franchise that used to be the Rockford Thunder before moving this past offseason. Sheeley (who you can follow here on Twitter, check the pic!) led the Hornets to the national championship game in 2008 and was an All-American before moving on to the NPF last year, where she was 3-5 with a 4.32 ERA for the Thunder and pitched with former Texas star Cat Osterman. Brattin is in her first season in the NPF and was an all-MIAA pick in 2009. You can follow both of them this season via the NPF site. The NPF has been around in some form since 1989 and is sponsored in part by Major League Baseball … so you’ve got to think this league has got a pretty good shelf life. Good luck to these two.


PS. Me + This Song + Wii + Just Dance = Magic