BY CHRISTIAN HARDY
The Wichita Eagle
Just a year ago, John Branum was on the mound at the National Baseball Congress World Series, wearing a Kansas Cannons jersey, and dealing.
The former Newman pitcher helped secure two wins for the Cannnons — both run rules — pitching twice in a span of 72 hours. One of those run rules would come over the Park City Rangers, conference foes who the Cannons eliminated.
Now, Park City is 2-0 in the NBC World Series, a game further than the squad made it in the winner’s bracket last year. And Branum is running the show as the Rangers’ coach.
It didn’t take long for Branum to get into a rhythm with the team either. He did the majority of his recruiting, and knew exactly what he wanted his squad to look like all the way throughout. Park City finished third in the Kansas Collegiate League Baseball standings, and runner-up in the league’s tournament.
“As a player just last year, I’ve been around the game, so I know who’s good and who isn’t good,” Branum said. “From that standpoint, that really helped me.”
It did, however, take Branum a bit of time to adjust to life as a coach. Less than a year removed from being a player, he had to learn how to talk and have relationships as a coach, rather than as a player. He had to realize he wasn’t just a part of the team anymore; he was overseeing it.
“They kind of see you being a little different, as a structure or a parson of authority,” said Branum, who was a volunteer assistant coach at Newman while he finished up his degree in the spring. “But it’s still baseball. It’s summer ball, it’s a bit more laid back, but in the end, it’s still the same as what you would do in the school ball year.”
After the early-season jitters that most teams go through, the Rangers got their act together when it counted. Heading into the tournament, the team had won nine of their last 11, and used that momentum to top the Oklahoma Giants and the Puerto Rico National Collegiate team.
Against Puerto Rico, the team went down 5-2 with only two innings to go. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, the team went on an eight-run tear against some soft Puerto Rico pitching.
“A lot of teams will pick up players to come play in the NBC, but we only picked up one pitcher,” Branum said. “I was very confident in the players that we have, because the top seven or eight arms that we have are very good.”
Now, Branum and the Rangers are two wins away from winning a spot in the second week of the NBC World Series.
It’s a solid resume booster for the young coach.
“It’s a big deal, because obviously this is what I want to do as a career,” Branum said. “If I’m able to show other coaches and people around the baseball world that this is what I have to offer, hopefully, going forward in my career, that would definitely boost it.”