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St. Joseph Baseball Hall of Fame Announces Class of 2023

Another chapter has been written in the storied history of the national pastime in Saint Joseph, Missouri. Larry and Martha Orth, Buzz Verduzco and Stan Weston will be enshrined in the St. Joseph Baseball Hall of Fame this summer.

“All of them just have such great character,” Mustangs president Ky Turner said. “They’re leaders, they’re at the top of their class and they have left such a great impact on St. Joe.”

Larry and Martha Orth have housed St. Joseph summer baseball players for 24 years, spanning the Saints, Blacksnakes and Mustangs eras. Often hosting multiple “Baseball Sons” at once, the two have welcomed in 40 different players from 11 different states - plus Puerto Rico.

“They are the gold standard of host families,” Turner said of the Orths. “As a host family, you’re inviting your home to a stranger. You don’t know their background, but you’re giving free rein to your house. That in itself is such a huge step, but they built these incredible, lifelong relationships with their players. And to do it for so long - I think it really says a lot about their generosity, their character and the type of people they are.”

Married for 60 years, the Orths have maintained contact with over half their guests while balancing five children, 16 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. They have attended several player weddings, also adopting many of their guests’ unique eating habits.

“Hosting these young men for all these many years has been a highlight of our lives,” Larry and Martha said. “We have absolutely no regrets and we would do it again in a heartbeat. We have made friends for life all over this country.”

At 82 years young, Larry Orth is the true father figure of the household. He relishes the opportunity to talk baseball or share real-world advice with his guests.

Martha, the home’s “Mother Hen” of 80 years, handles all the cooking, laundry and mending. She has battled cancer and multiple knee replacements but is still going strong.

“They all know they have a place to stay when visiting St. Joe,” Larry and Martha said. “We look forward to the first pitch every summer knowing that we will be entertained by the best and we will have a great time.

Buzz Verduzco has also anchored the modern growth of the game in St. Joe. He recently retired from a 23-year career at the helm of Missouri Western State University’s baseball team, which he led to a 629-546 record.

“It’s something that I’m gonna remember forever and be proud of,” Verduzco said of his induction. “They said our program and what we did during my time here was worth recognition, and that means a lot to me.”

Growing up in the East Bay town of Pittsburg, California, Verduzco played junior college baseball at Merced College. He then headed north to finish his career at Washington State, where he later served as an assistant coach for 10 seasons. After a brief stint at Nevada, the Griffons came calling in 2000.

“Being a west coast person, you have a lot to learn and you want to be able to embrace and be able to contribute to what the Midwest is about,” Verduzco recalled. “Saint Joseph - we fell in love with it. We felt it was a really embracing community when we first arrived.”

Feeling right at home, Verduzco thrived in his first collegiate head coaching position. In his 23 seasons, he orchestrated 16 winning campaigns, reaching 13 MIAA tournaments and four NCAA regional tournaments. He also developed 120 All-MIAA selections, including a program record 12 in 2017.

Under Verduzco, Missouri Western’s strongest season came in 2013. That year, the team captured the MIAA regular season championship, and Verduzco earned the league’s Coach of the Year honor. As the longtime skipper reflects on his years in the dugout, he draws two major takeaways.

“From the baseball side, how important it is having the coaching staff really going in the same direction and being cohesive,” Verduzco mentioned. “That’s one that’s really crucial, and learning how to do that as a head coach is not easy. The other thing is that you don’t do it by yourself. It takes a lot of different people that you should be able to reach out to.”

For Verduzco, the Mustangs organization has represented one of those people by strengthening his family’s ties to the St. Joseph community. In 2009, the Mustangs’ first season, Verduzco’s wife, Tracy, became the team’s official scorekeeper. She still is to this day. Then, in 2018, his son, Chas, came home to play for MWSU and the Mustangs.

“The mentorship [Verduzco] provides off the field - whether it’s to players or people in general. When we were first starting, we could go to Buzz, and he would give us advice or just sometimes be a shoulder to lean on,” Turner said. “Not many people stick around in the same place for very long, but what Buzz has done during his time in St. Joe is something we’ll remember forever.”

“[Baseball] is just a sport I love, and to be recognized for the sport I love is a big deal to me,” Weston said.

Weston’s love for the game dates back to his earliest days in St. Joe. As a grade school kid, he lived just six blocks from Phil Welch Stadium. And when each summer got underway, he’d make nightly trips to see the NAIA World Series.

“Mom would let us stay until the last game was over and then we’d come home in the dark,” Weston recalled. “No big deal or anything. It was just such a neat experience.”

Weston also began playing baseball around age five. He played at Central High School before helping Missouri Western to a Hall of Fame season in 1972. When his playing career finished, Weston moved on to teach and coach at Lafayette High School, where his passion for groundskeeping intensified.

“Back when I was coaching high school baseball at Lafayette, we had to take care of our own field if we wanted anything done,” Weston remembered. “Then, after I retired from teaching, I worked for the [St. Joseph] park department. And that’s what I did - ball fields.”

As time has passed, Weston’s journey has led him to several iconic ball fields. When the College World Series moved from Rosenblatt Stadium to Charles Schwab Field in 2011, Weston found an opening on the grounds crew. Now, he goes up to Omaha each June to set the stage for the nation’s best.

Weston also tends to the place he called home for so many early summer nights. Since 2018, he has maintained Phil Welch as an indispensable asset for Mustangs baseball.

“Stan being elected to the St. Joe Baseball Hall of Fame does not preclude him from his responsibilities at the stadium because that can’t happen,” Turner joked. “He is such an integral piece of everything that we do here. Phil Welch is a source of pride for our community, and when they walk into the stadium, it just brings a smile to their face to see it in such great shape.”

Weston’s care and consideration go beyond the diamond. He helped found and currently serves as the president of Midwest Adaptive Sports, which offers athletic opportunities to children with disabilities. Since its inception, the program has added several sports and expanded from St. Joseph to Kansas City.

“I’m about as proud of that as I am of anything I’ve ever done,” Weston said. “My grandson has cerebral palsy, and he plays wheelchair basketball. I’ve learned so much from him - that people with disabilities just want to do the same things everybody else wants to do, and sometimes we have to help them.”

The Class of 2023 will be honored with a pregame ceremony at 6:30 p.m. at Phil Welch Stadium on Saturday, June 24 before the Mustangs take on the Des Moines Prospects.

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