One late Thursday afternoon in early June, Crowder athletic director and head softball coach John Sisemore guided Freeman Fieldhouse donors on a tour of the future Fieldhouse and showed them the difference between what facilities Crowder athletic programs have had in the past and what they will have in the future.
The Fieldhouse — expected to be complete before the start of the 2019-20 school year — will give Crowder baseball, softball, and men’s soccer greater indoor practice capabilities, locker rooms and coaches offices, a training room and greater access to necessary treatments for more than 130 student-athletes, and Crowder baseball and softball fans will have the opportunity to watch their favorite teams from a view inside the upper level of the Fieldhouse. Additionally, big screen TVs will play live streaming Crowder baseball and softball.
Crowder men’s soccer, a program that began competition in 2008, will have its own locker room for the first time.
Crowder baseball and softball have both taken pride in their success, especially the past three seasons as both teams have combined for 310 victories.
This past season, baseball and softball each won Region 16 titles and they combined for 101 victories (54 softball, 47 baseball).
In 2018, both teams finished second in Region 16 and combined for 100 victories (54 softball, 46 baseball).
In 2017, each team won Region 16 titles and they combined for 109 victories (55 softball, 54 baseball). Crowder baseball competed at the JUCO World Series after winning the South Central District title at Missouri Southern’s Warren Turner Field.
Part of that pride has stemmed from overcoming challenges with the facilities, but that feeling seems to have been overtaken by excitement for what potential lies ahead for Crowder athletics.
“It’s going to be a game changer in the recruiting process, obviously,” Crowder head baseball coach Travis Lallemand said, “and it’s going to give our players one of the most state-of-the-art indoor facilities in the country. It’s just really, really impressive that John Sisemore, our athletic director, the Foundation, and everybody who contributed to that project got it done. It’s just a tribute to them and what they’ve done.
“Getting out and raising the money, a fully fundraised project, and I’m just happy to be a party aboard it because they did all the work and we’re going to benefit from one of the nicest junior college facilities in the country.
“We’re going to have an opportunity to work out the full year inside. We can intersquad in there. We can do everything. This year (2018-19) was a tough year in the weather department. You’re not taking days off, where you’re hitting in a small tunnel. Development is huge, but it also gives our players the amenities. Our softball program’s a top-rated program, soccer’s winning at their level, and we’re obviously competing pretty well at our level. It gives our teams amenities that are conducive to winning programs. I’m proud as heck of it. Every time I look at it, I can’t wait to move in there.”
Before Sisemore took donors on their tour of the future and past facilities, he told a story that he said would encapsulate just how much their donations toward the fieldhouse meant to him and the Crowder athletics program.
“A young lady came here four years ago,” Sisemore said. “I’ll call her L.J. L.J. was at a Division I program a long way away. I got a phone call that said ‘Coach, will you take this young lady into your program?’ I knew her history, I knew what happened to her in the past, I knew what was going on with her. She needed a father figure and she needed a family.
“L.J. came to Crowder College and became the all-time home run leader at Crowder College. Before I took her in, I said, ‘L.J., you’re going to have to do everything we ask of you, just like your father would, and you’re going to have to obey the things we tell you.’
“We’re playing in a district championship to go on and compete for a national title. We had one of the best teams in the country and L.J. didn’t go to class the morning before we left for this game. Her dad drove the entire night from Iowa to watch his daughter play. He slept in his truck in the parking lot. I didn’t play L.J. that day. The all-time home run record at Crowder College. We lost the chance to go to the national championship by one run in 14 innings with the best player sitting on the bench.
“When we finish, we allow every player to speak their peace. L.J., in tears, ‘I don’t care right now. I found a family. I found people who care about me.’ L.J.’s now a school teacher in Kansas City and she’s going to teach these things to all the kids.”
Before his story, Sisemore gave Lallemand a chance to speak to donors and the baseball coach found a story about how much the fieldhouse has already impacted the baseball program during the annual process of bringing in new talent following a season and then graduation.
“Years ago, a personal story, interviewing for other jobs, we decided to turn them down and stay here,” Lallemand said. “After that, somebody asked me what’s my dream job. I said, ‘I think I’m living it.’ This building, this facility just magnifies it even more. Our student-athletes have a facility that matches their quality of play, their national recognition.
“Last thing I will say is what impact it’s had on our program already. I had a young man tell me on the phone that he’s leaving Wichita State and he’s already narrowed it down to three schools before I even talked to him, Iowa Western, Cowley, and Crowder. Three of the elite programs in this area and now we have the facilities to match it.”