Will Marion take a swing at baseball?
A guest at Monday’s City Council asked Marion to step up to the plate and become the smallest town in America to host a professional minor league baseball team.
Bob Lipp is attempting to co-found a low-level pro baseball league in Kansas with Doug Bender. He told council that with a few minor tweaks to the fields the city could host an independent minor league team.
“It could help put Marion on the map,” Lipp said.
Seeding the infield and expanding bleachers to seat at least 500 people would cost between $15,000 and $25,000, Lipp estimated. The improvements could allow Marion to host state baseball tournaments, Lipp said.
Seeding would have to happen beginning the middle of next month, or in the fall, depending on the type of grass planted. The existing lighting, grade, field, dugouts, parking, and sound system would fill the team’s needs, Lipp said.
Lipp hopes to create a league of four or five teams. Great Bend, Chanute, McPherson, Garden City, Emporia, and Montgomery County, although no town has yet agreed to host a team, are all under consideration.
Teams would play 72 games, 36 of which would be at home and players would be hosted by local families.
In order for the team to be successful, they would have to draw 150 to 200 people to each game, with ticket prices from $3 to $6. Team members could also teach training camps for younger local players, Lipp said.
“In towns with some sort of professional team the interest in little league and other baseball teams goes up,” Lipp said.
High school baseball and the team’s season would overlap for a few weeks, but Lipp said the team could be scheduled to play and train away during that time.
Lipp has 25 years of experience working with baseball teams of all levels. Starting a minor league in Kansas has been his goal for several years to utilize the talent from area high schools and colleges.
“It might be a good way for people to come here,” Marion Police Chief Tyler Mermis said. “I would be willing to donate my time to help get the fields ready and make this happen.”
Council members asked Mermis to coordinate with Lipp and Bender on a formal proposal to be presented at the next council meeting on July 7.