When it comes to baseball stories, they are a lot like fishing stories – heavy on entertainment, with some truth maybe sprinkled in somewhere. Maybe.
Exhibit A is Brad Simmons, a former Glendale High School pitching standout who recently took a seat in the dugout of his old stomping grounds and reminisced about his long-ago minor league days.
“I called my mother on the road once when I was playing in the minor leagues. I told her, ‘I saw the best home run I ever saw today. I was standing on the mound when it was hit,’” Simmons quipped. “I think the guy hit it about 500 feet, I don’t know.”
In other words, Simmons isn’t one to take himself too seriously, despite a tremendous high school career that would give the left-hander the right to do so.
Simmons certainly was among Springfield’s top pitchers in the mid-1970s, and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame will soon tip its cap to Simmons by honoring the lefty on May 27 during its Baseball Sports Enthusiasts Luncheon presented by Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper.
Simmons is among the Hall’s latest Diamond 9, a group of former high school and college standouts.
A 1976 graduate of Glendale, Simmons was all-state three years, including 1976 when the Falcons won their first state championship under coach Don Provance. The lefty was a combined 34-2 in his junior and senior seniors, including a summer in American Legion baseball.
From there, Simmons went on to play three seasons in the minor leagues after selection as a fifth-round draft pick of the Kanas City Royals.
“When I was younger, if you were in the house, your parents threw you out of the house (to go play),” Simmons said. “My dad bought a backstop and pitching mound. About every day when he got off work, he’d grab his mitt and facemask. And we did that every day until the eighth grade – when I hit him in the knee.”
Simmons sat there in the dugout and looked out at Glendale’s current field. Years ago, it was the practice field. Games were at Meador Park and Nichols Park in Springfield. He still remembers Provance pulling up his red pickup truck, the team unloading equipment and having fun.
He grew up with many of the teammates that would steer Glendale to that 1976 state championship. Great ballplayers, he called them, partly because the competition was so intense in youth leagues that it readied him for high school.
You see, Simmons and Jeff Boyd earned varsity innings as freshmen. As a senior, Simmons no-hit mighty Hillcrest in the conference championship and one-hit the Hornets a week later in the district championship.
“Our team, our biggest rivalry was (coach) Dick Birmingham and Hillcrest,” Simmons said. “The competition in our conference … the biggest challenge in Springfield at that time was trying to get out of conference because the (conference) competition was so good.”
Best of all, Simmons didn’t mind challenging hitters.
“I was accused in high school of throwing at people,” Simmons said with a smile, “and I was probably was.”
In the minor leagues, he pitched mostly in relief, covering 104 innings combined for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Royals, Daytona Beach of the high Class A Florida State League and Little Falls, N.Y, of the short-season New York-Penn League.
After his pro career ended, Simmons returned to Springfield and raised a family. His sons Brian, Brett and Brandon are grown now, and he also is a stepfather to Lane, Joshua, Tracy, Corey and Michael. His wife is Lisa.
“I just had a gift to be able to throw the baseball,” Simmons said. “For some pitchers, you have natural ability. I had people work with me a certain amount of time, helping me learn pitches, mechanics.
“I was fortunate enough in high school to start and say, ‘Here, it’s coming; try to hit it,’” Simmons added. “And the first pitch you throw goes out about 400 feet.”
WANT TO GO?
The ceremony: The Baseball Sports Enthusiasts Luncheon presented by the Ozarks Coca Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company at is 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 27 at the University Plaza Convention Center in Springfield.
Tickets & sponsorships: Call 417-889-3100. Tickets are $40, or $100 for a head table ticket. Numerous sponsorships are available, including a table of eight for $400, which includes associate sponsorship recognition in the printed program.
St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa will be honored as a Missouri Sports Legend, in which a specially commissioned sculpture, cast in bronze, will line the Legends Walkway.
Byron Hagler, who won almost 600 baseball games and reached nine state final fours as the head coach of Licking and Hillcrest high schools. His 1988 and 1989 Licking teams won Class 2 state championships.
Diane Juergensmeyer, the former St. Elizabeth High School softball coach who won more than 400 games and three state championships in 1992, 1994 and 2002.
Roy Burlison, a former standout in the American Softball Association who played on teams in St. Louis and Springfield.
John Schaefer, CEO of Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company, recipient of the President’s Award.
DIAMOND 9 HONOREES
Tim Blasi, a Hillcrest and Missouri State baseball standout who went on to star in ASA
Janice Crumpley-Bluebaum, a Marionville native who was a fast-pitch and slow-pitch standout in the American Softball Association
Jack Burrell, former baseball standout at Humansville and Southwest Baptist
Caitlin Chapin, a 2009 Ozark High School graduate who also played for Missouri State softball
Jim Lumpe of Glendale High School, the Mizzou Tigers and Montreal Expos
Diane Miller, a standout catcher in early 1990s for Missouri Southern softball
Barry Short of Mansfield High School, Three Rivers Community College and the New York Mets
Brad Simmons of Glendale High School and the Kansas City Royals
Kelly Snider of Hillcrest High School the Oklahoma Sooners and the Los Angeles Dodgers