Inside Pitch Magazine, September/October 2019

Last Inning: The National Baseball Congress

By Adam Revelette
The National Baseball Congress Logo The NBC World Series has been bringing together collegiate/semi-pro teams to compete every summer since 1935. The tournament, which typically lasts about two weeks, showcases some of the best summer baseball in the country and a unique, fan-friendly environment. The 2019 Series was played at Wichita State University’s Eck Stadium and, in addition to those who attended in person, 175,000+ live-stream viewers took in the event, connecting with the baseball community all across the country.

The event hosts several high-level players with big league dreams, many of whom are between spring seasons with their colleges and playing on collegiate summer teams. NBC Alumni include the likes of Albert Pujols (Hays Larks), Curtis Granderson (Mankato Moondogs), Ian Kinsler (Liberal Bee Jays), Josh Harrison (Cincinnati Steam), Mark Melancon (Duluth Huskies), Paul Goldschmidt (Anchorage Bucs), Sergio Romo (Lake Havasu Heat) and Tim Lincecum (Seattle Studs), to name a few.

The Seattle Studs avenged an earlier loss in the tournament and defeated the Cheney (KS) Diamond Dawgs 5-4 to claim the 2019 title, jumping out to an early 3-0 lead and hanging on in the latter innings. The victory gave Seattle their third championship in seven NBCWS appearances.

Founded in 1954, the Studs are one of the oldest amateur baseball organizations in the country, and their notable alumni include Brent Lillibridge, Willie Bloomquist and the aforementioned Lincecum.

“Seattle had to win four games in four days to win the title this year,” said NBC General Manager and Tournament Director Kevin Jenks. “Barry Aden understands how to “manage” the NBCWS, which is unlike any other baseball tournament in the country.”

This past summer the NBC also announced its 2019 Hall of Fame class, which included two-time champion and current Cubs scout Coach Steve McFarland; Mike Moore, who was the top overall pick in the 1981 MLB Draft; Mark Potter, who played in 14 straight NBC World Series; Rick Schroeder, a Texas Rangers area scout who has covered the event for 37 consecutive years; and Isaiah “Fireball” Jackson, who was the highlight of the Kansas State Tournament at Lawrence Stadium in the 1960’s. Fireball was voted Most Popular Player at the 1965, 1966 and 1967 tournaments, and would have likely enjoyed a long career in major league baseball if he wasn’t an ex-con.

Yes, an ex-con. Jackson, who was three years old when he and his four siblings were abandoned by his parents, was sentenced to 10 years in the Lansing State Prison on a robbery charge when he was 17. At that time, he joined the baseball team at Lansing State Penitentiary, whose team was allowed to play in the NBC Kansas State Tournament at the time.

Upon his initial release from prison, Jackson signed a contract with the Pirates, but he would eventually leave the team and be arrested of another robbery charge, which earned him another 10-year stretch at Lansing, where he rejoined the baseball team and his legend continued to grow.

Jackson, who could not count money, read, or drive, was simply unable to operate in the outside world. He would be arrested for a third time years later, and finally began to turn his life around while at the Jefferson County prison in Missouri. He developed a passion for art and, upon being released after 20 years at Jefferson County, “Fireball” even earned a one-man art show opportunity. Sadly, he died of liver cancer in July of 2004 before the show occurred, however his art ended up being a huge hit, and his paintings are highly sought after today.

“Those that don’t know the Fireball story may think we have low qualifications,” Jenks noted, “but we really did our due diligence researching his biography. Fireball had a following like no other NBC player aside from Satchel Paige. It’s been over 50 years since he played and the old-timers still talk about him.”

For more information on the National Baseball Congress, visit nbcbaseball.com.

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