Wood bat tournament supports mental health

Apr. 14—Kevin Kerns of Walkoff Wood Bat Company in Savannah wanted to take advantage of the rich talent pool of local high school baseball players by showcasing their skills in a wood bat tournament sponsored by his company.

Kerns and his company had sponsored youth tournaments in the past, but decided it was time to run a high school tournament for the first time this past weekend on April 12 and 13. Local varsity teams such as Benton, Savannah, Central, St. Joseph Christian, Mid-Buchanan, East Buchanan and Bishop LeBlond were part of the 24-team field that was separated into three different brackets. Players exclusively used wood bats for the tournament, which is different from the metal bats that players would use during the high school season.

"We kind of just wanted to do something different for the high school games," Kerns said prior to the start of the tournament on Friday.

The wood bat company in St. Joseph made a point to make the tournament a joyous experience for the players, keeping the teams in play the entire tournament with no single or double elimination process. Kerns said they fed all the teams and even provided a fireworks show at Phil Welch on Friday night, much like a St. Joseph Mustangs game would end during the summer.

The main focus for Kerns and the company was to not only showcase the local baseball talent, but also use the tournament to raise funds for Mosaic Life Care Behavioral Health. The total amount of funds raised is expected to be unveiled in the coming days, Kerns told News-Press Now.

Benton, who won the red division on Saturday against Harrisonville by a score of 8-2, was one of several local teams on display in the first iteration of the tournament. Head coach Johnny Coy said when they knew about the opportunity to play in the WOW Wood Bat Tournament, they jumped all over it.

"It's for a great cause. Mental health, it's plaguing our community and everyone knows about it, and anything we can do to bring awareness and help raise money for it, we're all in," Coy said following the Cardinals tournament championship win on Saturday.

Benton senior Carson Schmidt is familiar with Kerns and his company out in Savannah. Schmidt felt great pride being one of the first champions oh Kerns's company's tournament this weekend, and spoke highly of the way the Cardinals are playing at the moment..

"It means a lot... I think the team chemistry is really good, better than last year," Schmidt said.

Jacob Meikel can be reached at

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