This is the inaugural season of the Junior Mustangs, made up of high school players and incoming college freshman. The team includes talent from around the Midland Empire Conference, including three players from Benton and Lafayette, two from Bishop LeBlond, and four from Smithville as well as one from Park Hill and Park Hill South.
The team was conceived by assistant coach Mark Zuptich and Smithville-based head coach Brad Angle as a way to expose young players to the college atmosphere.
"We ran it by Matt Johnson and he agreed that if we got a group of kids together, he would work with them," Zuptich said. "They get that opportunity that most kids don't get: to see a college practice before they get to college.
Players have been a regular site at Phil Welch Stadium, taking part in Mustangs' batting practice, helping tend the field in between innings, and spending games in the dugout.
Jonathan Zuptich, who is in his second year as a bullpen catcher with the Mustangs, said you can't beat the exposure to the next level.
"You learn a lot. You see a lot. Those guys are just great," he said. "If you need help, they'll help you. They'll tell you what you're doing wrong and doing right."
It makes the new squad a virtual feeder program for St. Joseph's summer collegiate team.
"Most of them will be our teammates next year when we go off to college and if we play for the Mustangs," Burgess said. "With the St. Joe guys, I think there will be a lot of us who'll come play for the Mustangs. It's family-based and we'll have family to support us."
The team just wrapped up the second week of their season at Shawnee Mission East High School. Their next stop will be Lawrence, Kan. as the schedule runs until late July.
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