KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The Bishop Ward High School baseball program is the winner of 12 state championships in Kansas. Now, they're getting some special recognition from Major League Baseball.
The Kansas City, Kansas school is one of five in the nation to get an MLB grant to pay for upgrades to its baseball stadium. Less than 400 students are on the roster at Bishop Ward. That didn't stop people in KCK from donating $66,000 for baseball stadium improvements.
That support helped convince Major League Baseball to jump in with a $53,000 grant. The Royals also donated $5,000 in addition to the MLB's Tomorrow Fund. Everyone who donated recognizes that baseball has been an important part of the community.
"The program has been the cornerstone of our athletic department over the last decade and a half," said Greg Duggins. "We've won a lot of baseball games on this field, and with it being restored, it renews the spirit of baseball here at Ward."
Seven out of the last nine Kansas 4A baseball championships have been won on the baseball diamond at Ward. In addition to new dugouts, new fencing and seating, the grans and donations will pay for an irrigation system to keep the grass green.
Coach Dennis Hurla says the small school's success is built on teamwork that focuses on the fundamentals in all aspects of life.
"When you're a small catholic high school, anytime you can get a grant like that, it's huge for us!" said Coach Hurla. "We're looking to use it to continue what we've been doing, we've got a good strong program we think that will help with what we've already established."
On a diamond where baseball greats like Satchel Paige once played, current players say they appreciate an investment that will allow future generations to be part of Bishop Ward's tradition of excellence.
"I think people will see, oh, this school has great facilities, they'll want to come here," said Austin Kochsmeie. "They will want to play."
What was once a field of dreams is now becoming a reality and source of pride for the urban center of KCK.
MLB will bring its All-Star game to Kansas City in the summer of 2012. Coach Hurla says Bishop Ward should have one of the nicer high school stadiums in the metro when the game's best come to town.