Hannibal graduate Scot Roberts and a talented crop of Northeast Missouri talent are focused on beating their Illinois rivals Saturday night at Clemens Field.
Scot Roberts enters Saturday night’s fifth annual Missouri-Illinois All-Star Baseball Game at Clemens Field reflecting on the past but also looking toward the future.
The Hannibal High School grad is a month from transitioning to Missouri Western State University, where he will pitch for the NCAA Division-II program.
“This is my last time playing competitive baseball in Hannibal for a while, maybe ever,” the 6-foot-5 hurler said. “It’s going to be sad going to the other side of the state, but I’m excited for it. I’m excited for Saturday and past that.”
But first, there remains some unfinished business.
Roberts and a talented crop of graduated Northeast Missouri talent want to reverse the trend in the regional showcase. Illinois has won three of four, including the past two.
Even as temperatures soared near 100 degrees, the Missouri squad managed to get in four practices this week under the leadership of Clark County’s Jerry Jerome, the Clarence Cannon Conference Coach of the Year.
“The thing I like about this is it gives these kids one more game,” Jerome said. “About half of them are going to go on and play, but for the half, the thing of it is they’ve got grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers, cousins, who will be at the game wanting to see them one last time.”
Corey Kunkel of Mark Twain High School admits he feels bittersweet about Saturday’s exhibition, which will serve as his final high school contest. Kunkel plans to enroll in college before working for his family’s business.
While baseball won’t be absent from Kunkel’s future, it won’t be a focus the same way it has been.
“It’s definitely rough,” Kunkel said. “I’m letting it soak in. I’m still going to have to play slow-pitch.”
Regardless of circumstances, Saturday will serve as a stepping stone for the young men who take the diamond before they enter a new stage of life.
It also presents the opportunity to both play with and against their peers one final time. While many of the All-Stars already know at least some of the players on each side, the practices leading up to the game have bonded the Missouri team.
“It’s kind of cool. The kids are hanging out together, talking and communicating,” Jerome said of his star-studded squad. “The first day they were kind of apprehensive because nobody knew each other except for their own little cliques and teammates, but now they’re starting to open up a little bit.”
Roberts, who also played in a Missouri Class 5 showcase, has played summer baseball with several of his All-Star teammates. During high school, his Hannibal team faced schools in the Quincy area who will be represented on the Illinois side.
Roberts said it’s been cool getting acquainted with his fellow Missouri All-Stars.
“Everybody knows everybody,” added Roberts. “We’ve been seeing each other on the news and in the newspaper for the last four or five years, so you know the names and now you’re just putting faces with the names.”
Kunkel agreed, adding his team wants to balance having fun with playing fundamental baseball that leads to a win.
“Especially to play with all these guys, these are the best athletes around and it’s an honor to be with them,” he said.
What does Kunkel hope for come Saturday night?
“A couple hits would be nice,” he said with a chuckle. “But I just want to go out there and have fun.”
The All-Star Game is scheduled for 7 p.m. first pitch. Gates open at 6 p.m. Admission will be $8, while ages 5 and under are free.