Catbacker Tour Underway out West

K-State coaches, student-athletes and staff are spending five days with purple fans from around the state on the Catbacker Tour's "Western Swing." The group began its tour on Monday in Dodge City, then headed to Garden City on Tuesday, Scott City yesterday and is currently spending the day with Wildcat fans in Colby. The group will finish the Western Swing tomorrow in Hays. 
"It's neat to be out in this very purple part of this state," said K-State President Dr. Kirk Schulz on Tuesday evening in Garden City. "Every time we drive out here, when we're out on the road, it reminds me how I appreciate all of you that come to all of our events. You're regular attendees and you support our programs, athletics and academics, financially, and you're an import part of what makes K-State truly the university in Kansas." 
At each town, K-State Athletics and the K-State Alumni Association begin their day with a golf tournament followed by student-athlete hosted kids' fun zones each afternoon. In the evening, everyone gets together for a banquet - and each banquet is unique to its town.
With steak dinners in Dodge City to Mexican cuisine complete with sopapillas in Garden City to the Annual "Calf Fry" in Scott City (an event unlike any other!), each event is different, but they all have one common factor: they are all filled with people who are extremely passionate about Kansas State University and its athletics.
"This is a big event," said Scott City's John Fairleigh at the Scott City Catbacker Fry last night. "This is K-State's way of reaching out to Western Kansas and saying, 'Thanks.' There's a pretty good distance between here and Manhattan, so you can't just buzz over and go to every single event. I think that's what it is - everybody appreciates K-State putting in the effort to send people out here to talk to us."
Last night's event featured K-State head coaches Bill Snyder, Jeff Mittie and Bruce Weber. Each coach had the opportunity to get up before the Catbacker club after dinner, answer questions and talk about their respective upcoming seasons. 
"I've been coming out here for 20-something years, and I enjoy the people," said Snyder about the Western Swing. "They're genuine and they represent what Kansas State is all about. They're people who work hard, and I admire them; I appreciate them. It goes back to that Midwestern work ethic, and that's what I want our program to represent - that Midwest work ethic."
Along with the coaches, this year a record-high nine student-athletes - Stanton Weber, Travis Britz and Boston Stiverson from the football team, D.J. Johnson and Justin Edwards from the men's basketball team, Kindred Wesemann and Jessica Sheble from the women's basketball team, as well as Makenzie Holcomb and Kelsey Schroll from the volleyball team - have traveled west with the Catbacker Tour. 
"It's great to have the student-athletes out because a lot of people don't get the chance otherwise to talk to them, and when they do see them, they're in uniform," said 1974 K-State alumni Charlie Clarr at the Garden City Catbacker Club banquet. "So it's great for everyone out here to see them in a normal setting. Everyone really loves the athletes and loves spending time with them; the kids love it too."
Of this year's group of student-athletes, Johnson is the only one who has been on the Western Swing before. He traveled out west last year and said he enjoyed himself so much he plans on making it out every year of his Wildcat career.
"It's a good time," said Johnson with a smile. "I know no matter what, no matter how our season goes, we always have die-hard fans out here in western Kansas. It's a good time. We get to shake hands with people who make it possible for us to have such nice facilities and who make it possible for us to eat at training table. They provide a lot to us, so I enjoy coming out here and making sure they know they're appreciated." 
Taking advantage of the opportunity to share his vision for K-State Athletics' newest team, this year marked women's soccer head coach Mike Dibbini's first time on the Western Swing. 
"I think it's great getting the soccer program's name out there," said Dibbini after speaking in Garden City. "Spending some time with people on the Western Swing is really important. I think it's important to share the vision of the program with K-Staters throughout the state." 
Soccer in Garden City is booming. Major League Soccer's Sporting Kansas City recently announced it has plans to create a USL Premier Development League (PDL) club based in Garden City. So, while it was Dibbini's first time on the Western Swing, it certainly wasn't his first time in western Kansas. 
"I think having him here was really great," said Clarr. "Especially with Sporting KC coming out here because there is an awful lot of soccer played in Garden City right now. Our high school girls are working their way to state - they're really close - so there's a lot of soccer in this town."
Stay tuned the rest of this week as K-State Sports Extra will continue to report from the Western Swing!
Colton Kalmus matched his career-high in strikeouts with six while Max Brown went 4-for-4 with a pair of two-out RBI as sixth-seed K-State opened its trip to the 2015 Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship with a 7-3 win over third-seeded Oklahoma on Wednesday at ONEOK Field.
The Wildcats (27-28) notched their third win in the opening game of the postseason tournament in their last four trips with the help of a five-run lead through the third inning. K-State scored a run in the first, two in the second and another two in the third, building an insurmountable lead over the Sooners (32-26).
"I thought we just came out ready to play," said head coach Brad Hill. "We were right on fire from the start. (Carter) Yagi gets us going with a base hit (in the first). We do a hit-and-run right away. Coach (Andy) Sawyers does a great job getting aggressive with a hit-and-run. Again, we just got momentum on our side early. Offensively is where it all started."
To continue reading about yesterday's game, please click here
K-State will play again this evening at 7:30 p.m., as the Wildcats take on second-seeded Oklahoma State.
Andrew Hamor, who spent a decade as a member of the K-State Athletics staff before spending two years at the University of Texas, will return to his alma mater as the Associate Athletics Director for Development, Athletics Director John Currie has announced.
In his new role, which begins June 22, Hamor will lead the athletics department's development efforts and serve as a member of the senior staff.
"We are very fortunate to have such a uniquely well-positioned and capable candidate available to continue our momentum and maintain the culture of service and productivity that we expect from our development team," Currie said. "Andrew is yet another example of a proven professional who recognizes that K-State is a special place and wants to be a part of our vision of being A Model Intercollegiate Athletics Program, and we are excited to welcome Kiley and Andrew back to Manhattan."
To continue reading about Hamor and his return to Manhattan, please click here

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