This season, Somerset Park became a destination in summer collegiate baseball, as the Sabetha Lobos (Mid-Plains Collegiate League) thrived in the small Kansas town.
The story of the Lobos is unique. Initially conceived by manager Harvey Pena as a Puerto Rican national team in 2013, the squad had success on the field but could not find a permanent home. Intrigued by the quality of facilities and local support, Pena decided to bring the Lobos to Sabetha, despite some sharp cultural contrasts.
With its rural location just south of the Nebraska border, Sabetha is a town of just over 2,500 people with a population that is more than 96% white, according to the most recent census figures. Pena says that the prospect of attracting a group of college-aged, mostly Latin American players to Sabetha appeared daunting at first, but the team found its niche on and off the field. More from the Kansas City Star:
Home for the players, when Peña started, was supposed to be a local hotel. But the planned partnership fell through, leaving Peña a little lost and lacking housing for his 27 players.
Bill Glace, the Keims and a woman who didn’t want to be named in this story eased Peña worries, reaching out through the community to find homes for the players. Together, they hosted more than 20 players to start the year, and more and more families eventually took in Lobos of their own.
As he went about his recruiting, Peña maintained his simple mission: to give players, especially Latin Americans, an opportunity they might not have had before, the same opportunity that he’d had to play in America.
Soon enough, the players began to arrive. And nearly as quickly, they started finding a place in the community beyond the diamond at Somerset Park. They formed bonds with host families over dinner or church or late-night conversations after games.
The Lobos played their last regular season home game on July 14, and Pena is already making plans to bring the team back to Sabetha in 2017. If this season is any indication, the Lobos should continue to form a strong bond with the community.