Ten year olds learn life is bigger than the game
By Mike Courson
Sometimes baseball is bigger than a game played between chalk lines. In the last two weeks, two Great Bend teams have gone above and beyond on and off the field of play. On July 7, members of the Great Bend Chiefs American Legion team performed CPR on Eric Shannon, a 46-year-old umpire who died of an apparent heart attack during a game in Hutchinson.
Last weekend, a group of 10 year olds had their chance to be bigger than the game at a benefit tournament for 9-year-old Layd’n Hinderliter of Chase, who was recently diagnosed with stage-four neuroblastoma.
The Great Bend Bombers had just competed at state the weekend before, usually marking the end of the baseball season. Instead of a break, the team signed up for the Knocking Cancer Out of the Park tournament in South Hutchinson.
Hinderliter was a second baseman and catcher for the Hutchinson-based Kansas Scorpions before being diagnosed with cancer in May. He’s been unable to play baseball since, and was forced to watch games at his own benefit from a van to avoid exposure to the sun.
That’s when the Bombers acted as a team to meet Hinderliter in the van, giving him a team jersey, hat, and good luck fist bumps.
The sportsmanship nearly paid off with a tournament championship. The Bombers were ahead by one and needed just two outs to secure the title before an error resulted in a second-place finish.
“We’re a double play away from winning,” said Bombers coach Chris Umphres. “We get a ground ball to the shortstop. He flips to second base and the second baseman throws to first. It ends up being a dirtball past the first baseman. They scored two and we lost the game. No one was crying. It was all about the bigger picture. It was a pretty neat deal.”
Coming off the state tournament where winning was important, Umphres taught his players the other side of sports for the benefit that featured volunteer umpires.
“We told them from the start they were there to play the game because Layd’n couldn’t play the game,” said Umphres. “It’s a respect thing and sports can bring everyone together. It’s a bigger picture than just winning the game.”
The Bombers were awarded for their sportsmanship before and during the games, but the biggest award yet was delivered to Layd’n himself.
Brody Schnoebelen, who plays catcher and serves as a utility man for the Bombers, was named tournament Most Valuable Player. Instead of keeping the award for himself, he handed it back to Layd’n.
“He deserves it because he has to fight cancer,” Schnoebelen said. “I felt good giving it to him.”
“We’re very proud of the Bombers baseball boys and the way they represented our area,” said Umphres.
Players on the team include Nolan Jacobs from Hoisington and Wrikin Scobee of Lyons. The rest of the players are from Great Bend and include: Ben Nicholson, Owen Kaiser, Slade Mohr, Brody Schnoebelen, Carson Umphres, Peyden Oelger, Hunter Herrman, Jace Schartz, and Caden Guesnier.
Layd’n’s medical bills continue to rise. Proceeds from last weekend’s tournament will go to offset some of those bills, and a gofundme page has been set up for the family at gofundme.com/hinderliter.