Cecil Aska grew up close enough to historic Rathert Stadium to smell the sweat of the outfield players. In fact the site of his childhood home is now in the expansion area of the beautifully restored 1930’s era stadium. Although he was never much a ball player, like most youth, he loved “America’s” game.
Fifty years later, he’s recapturing his boyhood love as a founding member of the non-profit Junction City Community Baseball Club and general manager of the Junction City Brigade. The Brigade are a competitive summer league collegiate baseball team who play in the three-year-old Mid-Plains League.
When the leagues starts their season in June, this will be the fourth summer baseball is back and thriving in Junction City. Competitive baseball, beyond American Legion kid’s ball, was absent in Junction City after the Junction City Generals left the city in 2010. After experiencing void, Aska and several other men in the community decided to bring baseball back.
The first season (2013) the Brigade played as an independent team and the next year, a number of independent teams came together to form the Mid-Plains league. This year, with the addition of two new teams, the league has eight teams in Missouri and Kansas. They keep a busy schedule, playing nearly 40 to 60 games during the two and a half month summer season.
Everyone’s a winner with the Brigades. The City loves baseball and seem to appreciate the sports’ return, regularly packing the stadium. The tickets — $5 for adults and $3 for children — makes for an affordable family outing. Even the concessions are a steal, at least compared to the prices at Major League Stadiums.
In true small town America form, the entire city pitches in to help make the team a success. Local businesses help sponsor the team. Since college athletes can’t get paid, local residents allow the players to stay in their home. Some of the businesses give the players jobs with flexible hours. It allows them to make a little money and still keep playing the game. Aska even hires four of the players to help take care of the baseball field and stadium.
As a give-back to the community, the Brigade allow organizations to man the concession stands and receive 30% of the evening’s take.
Aska is an example of the good that comes when locals return home. Like many youth, he left Junction City for college. He took a long path back. He attended Hutchinson Community College, then Emporia State. After college he moved to Topeka where he worked for the State. Eventually he returned home and worked as the local Court Administrator before retiring. In all, he spent 35 years in government work.
This isn’t his first give back to the community, he’s a former Junction City Mayor.
His run for office even surprised Aska who refuses to call himself a “politician.” His run for the City Council even surprised Aska.
It was 2011 and Junction City was facing some major financial issues and Aska wanted to help get the city straightened out. He ran for and won a seat on the Council. The mayor’s position is selected by members of the City Council for a one-year term.
After what everyone we talked to said was a stellar term on the council, Aska announced he wouldn’t run again. He felt the city was finally heading in the right direction, and beside, that was 2015 and there was a baseball field calling his name. Aska walked away from politics and back to the field of his childhood dreams. He’s never looked back.
He’s brought baseball back to J.C.
You can learn more about the Junction City Brigade online at http://www.jcbrigade.com/
Learn more about the Mid-Plains Baseball League at http://www.midplainsleague.com/