National Baseball Congress World Series Reclaims Past Glory

National Baseball Congress World Series|National Baseball Congress in Wichita, Kansas
The National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kansas, is so steeped in history that Roger Clemens may not be the best pitcher who’s ever participated in the event. But the legendary player’s appearance this summer may be remembered as a turning point in one of the country’s most iconic tournaments. “The buzz around Wichita was definitely about the NBC,” says Tournament Director Kevin Jenks. “In recent years, that wasn’t the case.” The attention extended well out of Kansas. Spurred by the announcement that Clemens and a group of former Major League Baseball players including Adam LaRoche would form a team (dubbed the Kansas Stars) to play in the NBC World Series, ESPNU aired the championship live. While the annual event primarily features college players starring on summer league teams, it wasn’t a stretch to incorporate the veterans, says Jenks. NBC has hosted 800 future big leaguers, a legacy begun its first year when Satchel Paige struck out 60 batters and won four games 82 years ago. Since then, legends like Tony Gwynn, Barry Bonds, Chipper Jones and Mark McGwire have all made their way through the NBC World Series. But over the past 20 years or so, NBC lost a bit of its luster, says Jenks, who took over the event from the city of Wichita in 2014. His mission is to return to the glory days when the seats were packed shoulder-to-shoulder. Judging by the results, he is headed in the right direction. The addition of the Kansas Stars led to three sellouts at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium prior to game day and the tournament's total attendance was 55,137, a 25-percent increase from 2015. While the Stars didn’t reach the finals, they were part of a 17-inning classic. “It was one of the top five games played in our World Series, and we play 60 games per year,” says Jenks. The extra attention has brought added pressure and off-season work for Jenks, who is looking to add to his staff so the tournament can attract more high-profile leagues to partner with. Cape Cod Baseball League tops his dream list, and Jenks is eager to bring an international team to Wichita in 2017. Jenks, however, isn’t as interested in quantity of teams as he is in quality. He admits NBC may lower the amount of squads entered into the World Series to improve the competition and the event’s reputation. The wild, wild West nature of summer collegiate baseball—there’s no governing body so each league operates differently—presents logistical challenges Jenks will have to overcome. One thing is for certain: While he’d love to have the likes of Clemens and LaRoche back, he can’t count on it. “We have to get ahead of the game,” Jenks says.