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Baseball back in Armour: Kings named after one of team's founders

ARMOUR -- Nobody's quite sure the last time there was a town team in Armour. The safest guess is five years. Another player piped in saying it's been seven years and first baseman Jon Coler could definitively say it's been at least 11 years. Roy ...

Jason Babl
Armour player/manager Jason Babl, left, and Roy King, right, watch as Armour plays Martin Wednesday in Rosebud League baseball. The town has an amateur team again after years without one. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)

ARMOUR -- Nobody's quite sure the last time there was a town team in Armour.

The safest guess is five years. Another player piped in saying it's been seven years and first baseman Jon Coler could definitively say it's been at least 11 years. Roy King says it might be 20 years.

All of that talk is in the past now. Armour has baseball again.

The Armour Kings, an amateur team, hosted a Rosebud League doubleheader Wednesday against Martin. It was the first game of its kind in a while in Armour, and a lot of the credit can be given to King.

King put the bug in the ear of Jason Babl about two weeks ago about starting up a team again. Once King heard Babl played baseball in Mitchell, King asked him if he would be interested in leading the new team. Babl recently moved to Armour and joined as a sheriff's deputy under Coler, who is the county's sheriff.

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"Roy just sort of showed up at my doorstep one day and asked if I wanted to take on leading the baseball team. I sort of thought 'Why not?,'" Babl, who is the manager of the team, said.

"(Jason) said 'Sure' and they pulled together 18 guys. From where, I'm not sure but it's amazing really," King said.

"I kind of got put in charge of recruiting everyone because I'm from here and I know everyone," Coler said, who said he faintly remembers a team in Armour. "I didn't really think I would play again but here I am."

The team is together and while most admit they haven't played in a while, the players agree it's a good chance to have some fun.

The community has responded. Coler said the team has over 30 sponsors from the town and has raised over $1,000 to get the team started again. The doubleheader also received the Main Street treatment with the sign at the middle of the intersection advertising the twinbill.

"Hopefully we can get a lot of people from town to come out and have some fun watching baseball," Babl said.

The local team used to be known as the Jayhawks but the reborn team made a nickname change for the 2012 campaign to become the Kings, named after King himself. The patriarch of the new squad didn't know until prior to the game that he was the namesake for the team.

"We just thought it would be a good way to honor him since he's given so much to baseball here," Babl said.

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Once considered to be turned into a bullriding arena, Babl and Coler have led the cleanup of the ballfield by pulling weeds and filling holes in the outfield and did so right up until gametime. Coler, after hanging the American flag in centerfield, grabbed a shovel and filled in small hole in the middle of the outfield.

"We had a lot of work to do out here and we sort of kicked it in gear to get done for today," he said.

King took care of the small touches, grabbing the cart to line the diamond. He drew an 'A' for Armour in the home on-deck circle. There's still work to do, including a scoreboard and no grass infield but that didn't seem to matter to the guys with the practice balls in a plastic grocery bag.

"I want these to get it going and take a hold of it. I think they have and they enjoy playing ball," said King, who still plays with a 55 and over team called the South Dakota Pheasants based out of Sioux Falls.

On the field, the home debut was less than stellar. The visitors from Martin, who is in the Rosebud League with Armour, opened the doubleheader with a home run on the game's third pitch. Babl had a premonition this would happen; he said prior to the game that the team's weakness was pitching.

The pair of games wrapped up in favor of Martin, 12-1 and 12-1. Right through it, King and Babl were side-by-side in the dugout, considering how long to leave the starter in the game and urging the players to keep battling.

"We just try to come out have some fun. It gets us away from our jobs and keeps us in shape somewhat," Babl said.

There's only four Class B teams in the Rosebud, including Martin, Winner/Colome and Burke/Gregory and Armour but the town has baseball once more.

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"It's beyond words," King said, choking back tears. "It's incredible. This town was known for basketball. It's great these guys have taken the time to put baseball back in this town and have fun with it."

Kings players
(Marcus Traxler/Republic) Armour Kings players watch the game during the second inning of their first game against Martin Wednesday in Armour.

Related Topics: BASEBALL
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