Champion City Kings stir up hometown pride

In a triumphant return to the diamond following a canceled season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Champion City Kings baseball team has clinched a spot in the 2021 play-offs.

The Kings, a prospect league team in the East Conference's Ohio River Valley Division, will play in the Prospect League Playoffs against the winners of the second half of the season on Aug. 5 at Carleton Davidson Stadium, 1101 Mitchell Blvd.

The Kings secured the first half playoff spot in an 11-inning match-up at West Virginia on June 30.

Kings’ pitcher Gage Voorhees is graduate of Northwestern High School in Clark County. He plays baseball for Flagler College in Florida and was happy to return home to pitch for the Kings.

“I’ve had experiences I don’t think I would have had if I played for another team,” says Voorhees. “I’m meeting a lot of people from around the town, but at the same time seeing people I’ve met before that maybe didn’t know I played baseball. It all comes together.”

Voorhees says the community support the Kings receive is encouraging for him and his teammates. He says the players enjoy talking to the fans, and the team is very thankful to the community.

The Kings are all college-level athletes, and each player provides a specific talent to the team, Voorhees says.

“Everyone contributes evenly,” he says. “We want to make it the best experience for the community when they come to the games.”

The Ohio River Valley Division has four divisions with 16 teams overall; there are two split session within each season. The Kings will not only play in their first-ever playoff game, but they will also host the game at Carleton Davidson Stadium on Aug. 5.

“It’s exciting to be able to say we were the first team in Kings history to make the playoffs,” Voorhees says. “We’re never going to give up on trying to better ourselves and trying to not only succeed in the playoffs but win the playoffs for the community.”

Assistant coach Mark Lucas has been with the Kings from the inception of the team. Lucas, a Springfield native, is proud to have a hometown team in the playoffs.

“This league is tough. It’s not easy to do what we did,” he says. “This is something (the players) can talk about with their grandkids one day.”

Lucas says the community spectators have been positive and welcoming.

“We have a winning team on the field, and I think people enjoy coming to our games,” he says. “It’s a family-oriented atmosphere.”

Lucas says the players are received into the community with open arms, and the players get along well with each other and the fans.

“The relationships (formed) continue beyond baseball season,” he says. “Most of these kids are from all parts of the country … they appreciate the support.

"They know when there is a nice crowd in the stands; they hear it, they feel it. They respect this community.”

Ginger Fulton, general manager of the Champion City Kings, describes Carleton Davidson Stadium as a public facility that connects Springfield citizens around America’s favorite pastime: baseball.

“(Having the Kings in Springfield) gives them a reason to come out to one of our beautiful public areas,” she says. “We have an entertainment value for the community. Instead of driving to Columbus or Dayton for quality baseball, you can watch it right here in town. It’s a much more affordable option and gives them a team to rally around.”

Fulton says the Kings organization hopes to be a point of pride for the community and that the local support has been great.

“People come to the game to have a good time, even for non-baseball fans,” she says. “We want people to see this as an entertainment option; it’s more than just a baseball game. There are other things going on … we always try to add a little something.”

On July 10, the Kings will welcome Dueling Pianos to the stadium, and fans can request their favorite song. The Kings’ regular season will close with a second fireworks night on Aug. 4.

In between event nights, the Kings offer weekly specials, such as $2 Tuesdays, Dollar Dog Wednesdays, and Thirsty Thursdays.

Youth league teams can also sign up for the Springfield Foundation Field of Dreams, which allows youth player to be introduced with Kings players and stay on the field for the National Anthem.

“We add things to keep it exciting and fun,” says Fulton. “Our players get involved in a lot of the games with the kids.”

And while college coaches assign players to different ball clubs, Fulton says the Kings always like to welcome hometown players.

“It’s a wonderful thing for the City of Springfield to have a team like this,” says Fulton. “If you like baseball and warm summer evenings by Buck Creek, it’s a great setting and a nice atmosphere.”

Read more articles by Darci Jordan.

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