When you think of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde, baseball probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But for the Joplin Outlaws, the city’s somewhat notorious past was the perfect inspiration for a catchy moniker.
“The name really was just born out of Joplin’s storied past full of gangsters, wild times and, of course, outlaws like Bonnie and Clyde,” explains President and General Manager Mark Rains.
The city has come a long way since those early days, and so has the team. Attendance at Joe Becker stadium ranges from approximately 500 fans during weekday games to between 1,200 and 1,500 on weekends. Many of the most popular games every year revolve around theme/fundraiser nights. All the summer family fun is just $6 for adults (children 12 and under attend free) or $60 for a season pass of 25 games.
“We have so many opportunities for community involvement,” notes Rains.
“We just had our rib sale and sold 1,200 slabs of ribs. It’s something we do every spring before we gear up for the season to start. It’s a major fundraiser to get the name out there, pass out pocket schedules, sell season passes, catch up with fans, answer questions, etc.”
There are Gringo taco nights, Sonic tea readily available and a plethora of snacks and goodies.
After all is said and done, Rains and his colleagues are proudest of what the players have done on the field and what they will do with their newfound confidence and expertise once they return home.
“Watching these young men, college students, competing in summer ball, away from their girlfriends, their hometowns and families to be here playing baseball to better themselves is just amazing.
“Most dream of playing Division 1, but many also go back and excel by becoming such outstanding community leaders – lawyers, doctors, teachers, coaches – that’s what I get a kick out of.”
The players aren’t the only ones Rains is grateful for, of course.
“One of the biggest reasons for our survival as a team is our sponsor families.”
“We have a lot of players who come in from out of town and without somewhere to put these young men, without host families, we just couldn’t put this on every year. We’ve been very blessed to have so many amazing sponsor families be there for these young men.”
For more information on becoming a team or player sponsor, special game nights, seasons passes and all things Joplin Outlaws, contact Mark Rains at 417.825.4218.
Special Game Nights
The season opener is June 2 and features $1 hot dogs, then a bombastic fireworks show on Friday night, June 3. Saturday night, June 4, is the Humane Society Awareness night, when attendees can get in for free in exchange for nonperishable items such as towels, blankets, sealed food, beds and, of course, monetary donations.
Back the Blue night will be a particularly poignant evening this year as the team honors fallen Joplin PD officers and their families. Players will wear specially made jerseys and hats embroidered with the call numbers of those honored. Shirts and hats will be available for special-order purchase, as well.
Friday, June 17, the highly popular Area Agency on Aging Margarita night will take place once again, a definite fan favorite.
On Veteran’s Night, June 18, the players wear special jerseys and host an auction with all proceeds going to benefit veteran’s affairs.
“The Joplin Playmakers is the team we play, and it’s really just for fun,” Rains says enthusiastically.
“The players switch up positions, and it doesn’t matter what the score is, we’re all just there to have a great time. It’s probably our second most popular night.”
“The last ‘special night’ is July 16, when we do Pink in the Park to raise money for breast cancer awareness in cooperation with Hope4You Breast Cancer Foundation. They’ll wear special pink shirts that night that will be up for auction, as well,” Rains notes.
Joplin Outlaw Sponsor Family Provides Home Away from Home for Players
For Karrla and Jim Morgan, sponsoring and hosting young players from out of town as part of the Joplin Outlaws baseball team is a labor of love.
“Jim and I started hosting ball players in 2006. A neighbor talked us into trying it, so we hosted for USA Baseball and the Joplin Slashers,” Morgan recalls.
“We started with the Outlaws in 2009 with Mark and Edwina and have been hosting ever since.”
Baseball isn’t just a pastime in the Morgan household, it’s a passion. Son Kyle was a batboy for the Outlaws for 10 years and loved hanging out with the players because it was like “hanging out with two older brothers for the summer.”
The Morgan household is more of a home away from home than a hotel or camp. Karrla not only takes them to the grocery store, she cooks and even offers to do their laundry (which she jokes they generally take her up on).
“It has been my experience that once the season gets started, the players sleep later and later in the mornings, so I leave breakfast and lunch up to them. I either cook or go out for dinner after the games. I tell them they are welcome to do their own laundry, but I always offer to do it. I want them to concentrate on playing baseball!”
On days off, the guys often hang out and chill but also get out of town regularly, attending Royals games or just places not open post-game.
The end of the season is often filled with mixed emotions. While the Morgans are thrilled to have once again been involved in such a worthwhile pursuit, the inevitable emotional connections made do not subside once the players return home.
“At the end of the season, it is always sad to see them leave,” Karrla admits.
“It seems like you are just getting comfortable with them and then it’s done! I try to keep in touch with them, but once they go back to school and their life, it’s hard to do.”
For more information on the Joplin Outlaws family sponsorship program, contact Mark Rains at 417.825.4218.
See more photos in the June 2022 print edition.