On May 28, the scene as US Ballpark featured Catholic and Hollister in a Class 4 State Quarterfinal.
“Really, it was just a blessing to get to play each other then and battle,” said former Catholic baseball player Jeremy Rader.
Jeremy was Catholic’s starting pitcher that day and picked up multiple base hits on offense.
On the other side was Hollister’s Landon Richards. He was the Tigers starting pitcher and also added multiple hits at the plate.
“I mean, it was awesome, we formed, like you said, a rivalry these past few years,” Jeremy said.
Just a week or so later, and the scene at the same ballpark has changed.
“Now, he’s behind me [playing shortstop] when I’m pitching,” Landon said. “I love it because he makes so many great plays. It’s a lot different.”
Now, the Big 8 conference rivals are teammates in the Show Me Collegiate League, playing for Victus Midwest.
For these two standout ballplayers, the newly shared uniform is a chance to reflect on their battles on opposing sides.
“Landon and I have played together before and we formed a really good relationship so now we are able to look back on it and smile and look back at the good memories,” Jeremy said.
Especially because there are good memories for both, with an even split of two key playoff games.
Catholic beat Hollister in the district finals in 2019 while Hollister won the matchup in this year’s quarterfinals.
“We both won one in different years,” Landon said.
With those memories in the rearview, the rivalry won’t fade completely, but it’s no longer on the forefront.
That’s something Marucci Midwest Co-Owner Randy Merryman has seen first hand as he’s coaching the Victus team this summer.
“It really shows the level of professionalism these guys have to say ‘hey, we battled out against each other. Now we’re teammates. It’s time to get to work for a new goal,” Merryman said.
It’s a new goal of focusing on college baseball. Jeremy will head to Missouri State while Landon goes to Johnson County Community College.
There’s no better place to work toward the next part of their careers than in the Show Me League.
“If you look at our roster, we have kids that went deep in the postseason on all their high school teams, I mean we have a few Willard kids that won [a state championship] just a few days ago and to have all that experience come back in the summer and play together is really awesome,” Jeremy said.
So while it may be a different scene, it’s still the same ballpark and the same game these guys love, no matter which jersey they’re wearing.
“You get to come here every day, play baseball and get better with guys that are really good as well,” Landon said.