Spirit Of Baseball Thrives At BRS Induction Day

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Only 10 percent of the players who make it to the minor leagues go on to play in the majors. On Saturday, Nov. 13, in Nokomis, seven of those lucky few from Central Illinois were honored for their contributions to the game of baseball by the Bottomley-Ruffing-Schalk Baseball Museum.

Jayson Werth, Dennis Werth, Eric Weaver, Stan Royer, Kevin Koslofski, Kevin Seitzer, and Ken Oberkfell were inducted as the newest honorees of the BRS Museum, along with longtime State Journal-Register scribe Dave Kane, who became the museum’s second media inductee.

“You can tell by all of these stories what it meant for them to get to the major leagues,” said University of Illinois play-by-play man Brian Barnhart, who emceed the event. “And you can tell what baseball means to Central Illinois and this community.”

Kane was the first inductee after the meal catered by Milanos Catering of Hillsboro and spoke about his time covering Nokomis for the Springfield-based paper.

“I love baseball, I love small towns and Nokomis is one of my favorite sports towns,” Kane said. “Whether it’s basketball or baseball or football, they supported the Redskins.”

Kane also spoke about covering two honorees of the museum, Weaver and Nokomis native Kris Detmers, then having the honor of covering their children as well, Tristan and Nicole Weaver and Reid Detmers. The Southeast High School grad thanked his wife, Lori, and children, Tim and Charlotte, who were all in attendance with Kane’s grandchildren, and his late wife, Abigail, who he said kept the family going while he was at games throughout his three-plus decade career.

Koslofski, who played in parts of four seasons for Kansas City and Milwaukee, talked about five moments that helped define his pro career: when he was called up, his first game, his greatest moment, when he was sent down and his final game.

The Decatur-born outfielder said that his call up came on the heels of a streak of consecutive strikeouts that reached eight straight and caused the destruction of a bat rack in the Omaha Royals dugout. That same night he got the call to the big leagues and two games later, he made his debut, getting three hits in his first game.

Koslofski also spoke about hitting his first home run off legend Nolan Ryan, his greatest moment, and breaking down in the outfield of Yankee Stadium in 1996. That was with then-teammate Mike Matheny when he received word that he was being sent back to the minors. His career would last one more year, where he was a teammate of Kris Detmers at Louisville.

While no longer in the professional ranks, Koslofski is still active in the sport as part of the Decatur Commodores baseball club, the travel team of former Nokomis players Reid Detmers and Ryan Janssen.

Olney-born Stan Royer, who now works in the finance industry in St. Louis, spoke about his journey and how the coaches and friends he met along the way propelled him forward and shaped his journey. Royer, who played for St. Louis and Boston in parts of four seasons, also spoke about having his father, Harold Royer, as his coach and encouraged young athletes to play any sport they can.

“Other than my faith, sports are what shaped me as a person,” Royer said. “I encourage kids to play all sports. It makes you a better player, but it also makes you a better person.”

Weaver spoke about his journey from Illiopolis and the Tri-City High School co-op baseball team to the Los Angeles Dodgers, one of three teams he played for over three years, along with Seattle and Anaheim.

Undrafted out of high school, Weaver said that he was ready to attend Bradley University when he got the opportunity to play in a qualifier for the Junior Olympics in Los Angeles, thanks to his high school coach Bill Lamkey.  After what he called the week of his life, Weaver made the Junior Olympic team and met with numerous scouts, including ones from the Los Angeles Dodgers, who flew his girlfriend (now wife) and mom to South Dakota for the Junior Olympics.

After signing with the Dodgers in 1992, Weaver worked his way through the minors before getting called up in 1998. It was during that time he said that he went from a 17-year-old kid to an adult.

“I joke with the kids that I finally figured out how to pitch at 21 or 22 years old,” said Weaver, who now lives in Auburn and gives lessons to area players.

Weaver also spoke about his call-up and the lessons he’s passed on to his son Tristan, who is playing for the University of Cincinnati baseball team after stops at Lincoln Land and Indiana State.

“I was lucky enough to play 13 years of professional ball,” Weaver said. “I told him you never want to burn a bridge, because you never know who will be able to help in the future.”

Jayson Werth, a former all-star and World Series winner, is the third member of his family to be honored by the BRS Mueseum, joining grandfather Dick Schofield and uncle Dick Schofield, Jr., with stepfather Dennis Werth becoming the fourth minutes later.

Werth and the other honorees visited the museum before the ceremony and the former Glenwood standout was struck by one name in particular: Springfield’s Robin Roberts.

During his time with the Philadelphia Phillies, Werth got the chance to meet with Roberts several times and the hall of famer told stories of playing with Werth’s great-grandfather, Ducky Schofield. The two had played on the same semi-pro team when Roberts was 17 and Schofield was 43.

When Roberts passed away, Werth was in St. Louis with the Phillies. As the family watched the game, Roberts’ son predicted that Werth would hit a home run for Roberts, which he did, a three-run shot to help beat the Cardinals.

“We had a real bond. It’s pretty cool to be a part of the same club as him,” Werth said of he and Roberts’ connection with the BRS Museum.

“For such a small town to have such a great museum, it’s amazing,” Werth said. “I’m proud of all I achieved and proud to be here tonight.”

Dennis Werth’s career was slightly shorter than his stepson’s, but wasn’t short on special moments as he joined a New York Yankee clubhouse that featured players like Reggie Jackson, Graig Nettles, Willie Randolph and Bucky Dent.

“My first dealing with baseball was three tennis balls and a bat,” Werth said of his humble beginnings in Cornland, his hometown before moving to Mt. Pulaski. “I collected Crane potato chip caps to get my first baseball glove.”

Werth said that some of his best memories are from coaching Jayson, though.

“I was a better teacher and mentor than a player,” the elder Werth said. “It was more fun watching his success than my own.”

Barnhart, who spent several years as a commentator in the minor leagues and two years with the Anaheim Angels before returning home to the Champaign area to become the voice of the Illini, also spoke about Oberkfell and Seitzer, who were unable to be in attendance on Saturday.

With the new inductions, the museum now honors more than 120 individuals, all within 60 miles of Nokomis, who have significantly contributed to the game of baseball.

As the crowd of more than 100 milled about afterward, talking to the inductees and getting pictures and autographs, words from Koslofski seemed to ring true to all of those in attendance.

“Thanks to the BRS Museum for keeping the history of Central Illinois baseball alive,” said Koslofski.

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