Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fences to remain same depth

Don't let the removal of the fences and ongoing dirt work along the outfield of Gordon B. Guess Field fool you. The dimensions of the baseball diamond that is home to the Marion Bobcats will be the same in 2009 as in the team's inaugural season.

Despite initial indications that municipal contributions in early 2008 would help fund moving the fences back at Guess Field for KIT League action, a change in plans will leave the power alleys at 340 feet. The turnabout, according to the man for whom the field was named years ago, Bobcats General Manager Gordon Guess, is due to needed upgrades and repairs at other Marion-Crittenden County Park facilities.
Grading and other dirt work has already started along the outfield of Guess Field, but the fences that were taken down to allow the work will be put back up where they stood at the end of the Bobcats' first campaign – 340 in the power alleys, 310 down the left field line, 290 in right and 350 to straight-away center.
The cost to erect the additional fencing it would take to grow the outfield was too much after the funds were allocated for other park facilities in need of repairs, Guess said.
So, at least for the 2009 season, the Bobcats will continue to host opposition in a rather pitcher-friendly park despite the shallow dimensions.
Guess explains that a more expansive outfield forces fielders to play deeper in order to prevent extra bases on long drives, allowing more bloopers and short flies over the infielders' heads to drop in for base hits. Thus, the shorter field keeps outfielders in close, turning would-be hits into outs.
Despite its relatively shallow dimensions, Guess Field was hardly a haven for home runs last season. Only 12 home runs were hit there in 26 games, most over the left field fence along Old Morganfield Road. The shortest part of the field – 290 down the right field line – invited only a couple of home runs.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Marion buys into future of KIT League

The future of organized baseball in Marion has never looked brighter.
On Monday, elected officials went to bat for the Marion Bobcats by agreeing to pay the $7,500 franchise fee that will give the city a stake in the KIT League for the duration of the summer collegiate league's existance. Though the franchise technically belongs to the City of Marion, Bobcats General Manager Gordon Guess brought Monday's request before city council members on behalf of the second-year team's investors. Unanimous approval means the Bobcats and city now have a stake in each other's future.
"That's a helluva committment," Guess said of the city's backing.
With 21 local investors, municipal backing and a strong fan base, the Bobcats truly are a community effort, Guess said.
The franchise fee is a one-time outlay, said league president and commissioner Randy Morgan, who made the trip from his Paducah home Monday to be at the city council meeting to represent the Bobcats' interest. Even if Marion Baseball Club, LLC – the corporation under which the Bobcats operate – ceases to exist, the city maintains a right to field a club in the KIT League so long as a new organization can be formed. If not, Marion can also sell the franchise rights to another city with league approval.
"That means this has value for the city," Guess said.
Morgan said most sports franchises, including those in the so-called "Kitty" League, are owned by individuals, but a municipally-owned franchise is not unheard of.
"It does happen," he said.
Guess also explained that if the club lays out of the league for a year due to financial or other concerns such as the Sikeston Bulls did in 2008, the franchise agreement allows the Bobcats to return to league play without paying another fee. In that manner, the license acts a placeholder in the wooden-bat league.
The Bobcats joined the league in 2008 without having to pay a franchise fee. A provisional waiver was granted to keep the league at six teams when the Sikeston club opted to take the year away from action. It is unclear if Sikeston plans to return to the KIT League in 2009.
Currently, the league consists of frachises in Marion, Dawson Springs, Fulton and Owensboro in Kentucky, and in Union City, Tenn., and Farmington, Mo.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Roster adjustment ads Sturgis native

Right-handed pitcher Chris Buckman, who led the Bobcats with five wins last year, has pledged his return to the team for a second season.
Buckman (5-1, 3.41 ERA) will replace Matt Nichols, another right-handed pitcher, on the early 23-man roster. General Manager Gordon Guess said Nichols would be unable to play next year, so Buckman's return to the squad was a welcome surprise.
"Spaz," the nickname Buckman acquired from Manager Steve Fowler and teammates, made most of his appearances in relief last season, making only three starts. He allowed only 13 runs in 34 1/3 innings.
Buckman joins Dustin Kennon as the second Mid-Continent University (Mayfield, Ky.) player to return from last year's 20-28 Marion team.
Fowler's roster must be parred down to 22 players by opening day in June, but Guess said several college coaches are still contacting both he and Fowler seeking places for some of their players for the summer. One recent Division I inquiry came from the University of Kentucky, Guess added.