WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Missouri State University-West Plains will be adding baseball to its athletic program in fall 2024.
The team has been approved to join the National Junior College Athletic Association, and will play at the Division I level.
Athletic Director Rusty Laverentz told The Heartlander the Grizzlies will be searching for their first head coach in July. The team is looking for someone who will be a part of the community and has coached at the junior level previously.
The new team has been funded by the Lead-Off Club, which raised over $100,000 to bring long-anticipated collegiate baseball to the area. The club committee is headed by Jerry Hall, Dennis Willard, Robbie Crites and Rachel Peterson. Over 50 area businesses and citizens have contributed their efforts.
Former Texas Christian University baseball head coach Lance Brown and former MSU baseball head coach and Athletic Director Bill Rowe also lent a hand. Brown is a native of West Plains.
“It’s unbelievable, the support this community has given to this program so far,” Laverentz said. “They’ve been wanting it for a long time. We’re finally going to deliver it for them.”
Laverentz says West Plains has seen some good baseball players through the years, such as Preacher Roe. The city has even dedicated a major city street in his name: Preacher Roe Boulevard.
The new MSU-WP baseball team plans to hold youth camps to improve the area’s growth in exceptional baseball programs. Laverentz says he believes the Grizzlies will create new opportunities for high school kids who may not have had the chance to play at the collegiate level before. Some 40-50 local players will fill the dugouts once the Grizzlies take the field in 2024.
A home field location has not been determined yet, but the Grizzlies hope to have a facility built within the next two years.
The team will compete in the Missouri Community College Athletic Conference, which includes eight other teams: Mineral Area College, East Central College, Jefferson College, St. Charles Community College, Moberly Area Community College, St. Louis Community College, State Fair Community College and Three Rivers College.
“It’s great to see an institution like MSU-WP add the sport of baseball,” MSU Bears Head Coach Keith Guttin said in an interview with MSU-WP. “There are quality players in the state of Missouri, and it’s good to see a school add the sport to give those student-athletes more opportunities to play. I think it’s going to be a great addition to West Plains.”
Laverentz would like to remind the community there is still time to join the Lead-Off Club and help boost the program.
“I’m ecstatic that we’re adding baseball. I played it, and it was the best four years of my life. I can’t wait to see what kind of program we put on the field. I know the community is going to be proud, and as soon as we get a coach in here it’s gonna be exciting.”
For more information visit the Grizzly Athletics website.