"Why don't we start our own baseball club?"
It started as an idea.
Moundridge native Caleb Hartman asked himself, "why don't we start our own baseball club?"
A nine months later, that idea is becoming a reality for Hartman, who is now the owner, general manager and head coach of the McPherson Pipeliners. The team recently signed a three-year contract with Nation Baseball Congress and the Kansas Collegiate League Baseball.
Hartman started as a high school standout at Moundridge High School, then played at the collegiate level at McPherson College, and coached for different teams around the state. Prior to the launch, the 28-year-old had different head coaching offers alongside his coaching colleague Chad Pinson.
“We ultimately decided that we were going to coach for a team at Ark. City. After talking it over, we just figured why can’t we do this ourselves? I just went ahead and moved forward on buying the Wichita Marlins from the league, and we were on the grounds of relocating the team and changing the name,” Hartman explained.
After getting the approval to purchase the team, the Pipeliners team was born. Pinson, who has coached more than 5,000 athletes throughout his career, is the assistant coach and will focus on infield and hitting. Taylor Werts is the pitching coach and will work with outfield players.
It was no question that Hartman wanted to move his newly acquired baseball organization to McPherson — he is fully invested in the community, and in exchange, the community is focused on supporting him.
“I knew I wanted to move to McPherson. Even though I’m from Moundridge, I know McPherson County like the back of my hand. I knew it was right for us. It’s a big sports community and it felt like home,” Hartman said
From then on, Hartman began searching for a ballpark, finding sponsors and seeking host families who are willing to take in Hartman’s players. Central Christian College and Hartman came to an agreement for his Pipeliners to use the Light Capital Baseball Stadium for the next three years.
“That was big for us. Light Capital has been in the community for a long time and has a lot of history,” Hartman said. "Collegiate teams play here and a lot of parents had their kids play there. It really worked out for us."
The official team logo has been created by a local student at McPherson College, featuring a lit oil derrick and baseball bats with a light blue and black color scheme.
“Since this area is a big oil and gas industry, we thought it is a good fit," Pinson said.
Once the word spread on social media, the McPherson community got involved.
“The community has really stepped up for us after we started making a name for ourselves. I’m from the area so I had a lot of contacts from the area. The community has helped us through social media, sharing all the things that we need for sponsorships and host families," Hartman said.
Hartman expects to build at least a 30-man roster for the Pipeliners. McPherson fans will see a few familiar faces — former Bullpups Cody Starkel and Marcus McDaniel. Much of the team is not from the area, so gathering host families has been a priority for Hartman, in addition to finding more sponsors for the team.
“We had a bunch of people who reached out to us through business inquiries about sponsorships. Some people in the community knew some of the players who played college baseball here, so they gave us names for possible recruiting. There were a couple of companies that steped forward on doing apparel for us. Anything you can think of, they have been a big help for us,” Hartman said.
Of course, building a team from the ground up is no picnic. At one point, Hartman was in a two-week drought with no progression. However, after reaching out to different college coaches and parents, and a little bit of luck, Hartman picked up 20 different players from different regions.
“It took a lot of luck, a lot of phone calling, a lot of not being discouraged and time and effort to get it done,” Hartman said.
Players will report to training camp on May 25. The Pipeliners’ opening game will be at 7 p.m. on May 31 in McPherson against the Haven Warhawks. The regular season will officially start at 7 p.m. on June 6 against the Clearwater Outlaws.
A full schedule can be found at http://mcphersonpipeliners.com.
Contact Peter Holland Jr. by email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Petes_Picks_