KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Since 1967, generations of kids have used the Wyandotte County Sports Association baseball fields tucked away just off Interstate 435.
Clayton Bennett, was one of those kids. Years later, he now manages the complex.
“I played T-ball out here all the way up through until I was too old to play and then worked every job here from umpire to concession stand, to running to grounds crew, to now running the complex," Bennett said.
And before Bennett took over operations in 2015, his mom ran the complex.
"All my siblings worked out here in some capacity," Bennett said. "Growing up, we all played out here so yeah, it’s not a family-owned thing but heavily invested in, by our family.“
Bennett is adamant he is not the story - but talk to any one of the parents on the five teams he helps coach, or the 24 T-ball players he teaches, and they’ll tell you if it wasn’t for him playing so many rolls - this place wouldn’t be what it still is.
“No, and that’s the thing he will never admit that and even if I ask him," said Amanda Baker, who grew up playing at WyCo and now, her two children do. "He will still tell me that it doesn’t matter, he loves doing it he wants every kid to be able to play when they can play. I actually played with Clayton.“
Baker contacted 41 Action News, without Bennett knowing at first, concerned that if enough people don't volunteer and invest in keeping up the park - it won't be around for the next generation.
"I know a lot of my friends played out here and then seeing our children play out here that’s something different," Baker said. "It means a lot more to you when your parents come out here to watch their grandchildren play, on the same field that you played on.“
"We get such a bad rep here in Wyandotte because of crime and things like that, but if we don’t give our kids things to do, what do we expect them to do?" Baker said.
Whether it's spending an extra couple dollars to buy from the concession stand instead of across the street, the 15 minutes it takes to organize a team snack, or the few extra seconds it takes to pick up your trash on the way out, Bennett says the community has to start somewhere if the complex is to stick around.
“We have to remember that it starts within the community before we can go out and be the regional power, the regional team power, the national team power, we have to start within the community," she said.
Right now there are two broken light poles at the fields, meaning some of the kids can't practice or play games after dark. But if enough adult volunteers sign up through the WyCo Sports complex to staff the concession stand at each of the Monarchs games, the local Piper Booster Club will donate $800 to the fields, which Bennett says would go toward buying new lights.
Details on how to sign up and volunteer at the Monarch's games, to benefit WyCo, can be found online.
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