Quiet Hero: Bob Lutz hits home run with League 42

Bob-Lutz

By Amy Geisler-Jones

Baseball has always been special to Bob Lutz, who covered a variety of sports during his 42-year career as a sports writer and columnist for The Wichita Eagle.

“It’s always been my biggest love,” Lutz said. For him, it helped form a bond between him and his dad.

And for the past three years, it’s a sport he along with hundreds of volunteers have helped introduce to hundreds of urban kids in Wichita.

Lutz calls League 42, a baseball league for boys and girls ages 5 through 14, a labor of love. The league is named after the number worn by Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play Major League Baseball.

In 2013 on a local radio sports show, Lutz pitched an idea he had been thinking about for more than a decade: creating an affordable opportunity for youth, especially minority youth, to play baseball.

By the next year, after heavy recruiting by Lutz and others who helped create the league, 220 players signed up to form 16 teams. This year’s season, the league’s fourth, involved about 600 players on 42 teams. There was a waiting list for some age groups this year. Around 175 volunteers were involved in coaching and other team roles, Lutz estimated.

The league’s registration fee is $30 per child or for an entire family, and all equipment is provided at no cost.

Making baseball affordable for urban kids isn’t the only goal of League 42, a nonprofit organization.

“The very foundation of the league is sportsmanship,” Lutz said. “We want the experience to be fun and enjoyable. We don’t want the kids to feel any pressure or for coaches and parents to apply pressure.”

He also likes the fact that the league brings families of different backgrounds and ethnicities together to “enjoy night after night at the baseball field. We have reached out and done a good job of attracting African Americans, Hispanics, whites and Asians. … I get tremendous satisfaction from the diversity.”

On a recent warm summer evening, Lutz sat behind home plate at one of the three fields at McAdams Park in northeast Wichita that League 42 uses for its games. The teams were representing three of the four categories, determined by age, in the league. The categories carry the mascot names of the high school, collegiate, Negro Baseball League and MLB teams on which Robinson played: Lancers, Bruins, Monarchs and Dodgers.

At the field, Lutz visited with volunteers, sent out messages to coaches about an upcoming skills clinic and watched one of six games being played that night.

For years, the McAdams fields hadn’t been used for organized baseball. During the league’s season, which runs early April to early July, at least two games are played every weekday night on each of the fields. Games postponed due to weather are made up on Saturdays.

One of the fields, the one where a T-ball game was underway this evening, is brand new, the result of the city’s allotment of $1.5 million in community improvement funds to support the park and the league. Besides the turf T-ball and coach pitch fields, the funds also were used for a new restroom/ concession facility. The league is raising money for other improvements, Lutz said, that will include a fourth field, more parking and lighting.

Eventually, Lutz would like for League 42 to expand its outreach and become involved in academic tutoring for its players, helping improve their success in the classroom, as well.

Lutz recently retired from his career at The Wichita Eagle, in large part because running and growing League 42 needed more of his time. He estimates he puts in about 50 hours a week during the league’s season and about 25 hours a week in the off-season. The Derby native also coaches a team of 7- and 8-year-olds in League 42; the team is named the Panthers, in homage to his high school team.

Lutz credits the hundreds of volunteers and generous donors with being the major reasons of the league’s success. Run primarily on donations, the league costs about $100,000 to $125,00 to operate each year. To find out more about League 42 or to donate, visit league42.org.

‘Quiet Hero’ brought Coffee with a Cop to Wichita

Michael Pasco

April 26, 2017 | Amy Geiszler-Jones

Less than two years ago, about 30 police officers showed up to seek out Michael Pasco at Wichita’s Southeast High School.

They were there to thank the teenager for his efforts to bring a nationwide movement to Wichita that is designed to help improve trust and build relationships between citizens and law enforcement. Continue reading “‘Quiet Hero’ brought Coffee with a Cop to Wichita”

Bringing Broadway to Brookdale helps Janelle McGee give back

Janelle McGee stands next to Brookdale signage

June 6, 2017 | Ken Arnold

Just before the show, cast members warm up their voices and make final adjustments to their costumes, while audience members make their way to tables in the brightly lit hall. Slowly, the hall quiets down, as people take their seats in eager anticipation for this special treat — dinner and a live performance of a popular Broadway musical. Continue reading “Bringing Broadway to Brookdale helps Janelle McGee give back”

Wichita Difference Makers recognizes first Quiet Hero

Larry Kunkle

Oct. 27, 2016 | John Denny

The Difference Makers for Wichita Awards program was launched in October to recognize and celebrate community members for making a positive difference. Each month, individuals who do not seek recognition but rather are inspired through an unwavering commitment to the day-to-day service of others will be honored as a Quiet Hero. Continue reading “Wichita Difference Makers recognizes first Quiet Hero”

Difference Makers ‘Quiet Hero’ Marcillene Dover advocates for KanCare expansion

Marcillene Dover

For the past few years, Marcillene Dover has spoken out to Kansas legislators, county commissioners, professional groups and many others about the importance of providing healthcare to people in need. Specifically, Dover is an advocate for expanding the Kansas Medicaid program KanCare to those who fall into the “KanCare Gap” – working people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, and too little to qualify for federal subsidies to buy private coverage. Continue reading “Difference Makers ‘Quiet Hero’ Marcillene Dover advocates for KanCare expansion”