K-State Sports Extra: The Tointon Family

by Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Bob Tointon vividly remembers one of the highlights of his Kensington High School baseball career in northwest Kansas.

As he tells it, "I wasn't very big to begin with, but my coach said squat down low and don't swing. I got on base, and I believe even scored a run."

It seems ironic that a man with that baseball past, along with his wife Betty, have been so instrumental in turning the fortunes of the Kansas State University baseball team.

Saturday prior to the 2:30 p.m. first-pitch against the University of Texas at Tointon Family Stadium, the Tointon's will be recognized and their 13-year-old grandson, Steven, will throw out the first pitch.

The Tointons - Bob in civil engineering and Betty in home economics/journalism - are 1955 graduates of Kansas State University and were the principle benefactors of K-State's $3.1 million stadium that opened its gates on April 20, 2002, ironically, against the Texas Longhorns.

"It's really not that great of a story, and Betty and I, honestly, are not great baseball fans," said Tointon, who is co-owner of Phelps-Tointon, Inc., in Greeley, Colorado. "We knew that K-State's facility was basically bleachers. They didn't have a stadium, but they just had a field and something needed to be done."

So, what it came down to is "... Ernie (Barrett) twisting my arm and convincing me it was a top priority of the athletic department. The facility had to be upgraded for us to have any opportunity to compete in the Big 12 Conference."

With a chuckle, Tointon added, "Like so many facilities around here, if any facility deserves to be named, it should be called 'Ernie Barrett Stadium'."

Barrett, however, is the first to disagree, and in turn gives full credit to the Tointon family.

"The administration first told me that the money wasn't there and the stadium would have to be done in phases," said Barrett. "Well, I know from experience that the first phase on something like that happens, but nothing else. Bob made his initial donation, but then we had to go back to him again to get the project done right."

Now an eight-year-old facility, it initially included seating for 2,300 fans, plus a locker room and office space for the coaching staff.

Over the years, FieldTurf was installed, seating was added, which includes purple chairbacks, lighting improved, and a 1,500 square foot strength and conditioning center that carries the name of ex-K-Stater John Allen, the former chief operating officer of the Cincinnati Reds.

K-State, 19-3 at home this season, is averaging 1,599 fans this year, which includes a 2,148 average for Big 12 games.

After the first seven years where the Wildcats won more than 31 games only once, the program took off in 2009 with a record-setting 43-victory season, which included a first-ever appearance in an NCAA Regional.

This year, the momentum has continued as the No. 20 ranked Wildcats trail only Texas in the Big 12 Conference with an overall record of 31-13 heading into the weekend series with the Longhorns.

"It's taken a while to get the program up to speed, but now you have a sense of satisfaction that you made a good investment," said Tointon.

"The key thing about Bob and Betty is that they enjoy seeing their donations go in a manner to complete a first-class project that will better the future of Kansas State," said Barrett.

K-State athletics director John Currie added, "With their lead gift, the Tointon family has helped in transforming the K-State baseball program into a nationally competitive program. It took time for coach (Bill) Snyder and coach (Frank) Martin to build their programs, and now coach (Brad) Hill has had the time to capitalize on the stadium. Credit coach Hill, but it couldn't have happened without the help of the Tointons."

While not necessarily baseball buffs, Tointon said K-State athletics has always been high on his priority list, starting with his days as a student.

"In the first two years I never missed a home football game or a home basketball game," Tointon said. Laughing, he continued, "I think in those years I saw the basketball team lose just one time, and the football team win just one time."

The Tointon family is among the elite contributors to the overall needs of the university whether providing scholarships, to funding "chairs" to the engineering program, to contributing to the Human Ecology (formerly known as home economics) department, to trying to enhance facilities.

"I'm quite encouraged with the direction Kansas State is headed with President (Kirk) Schulz and John Currie," Tointon said. "Everything seems very refreshing to me. The school has made remarkable progress over the last 25 years, and you just get the feel today of a new energy."

NO. 1 TEXAS COMES TO TOINTON

On March 30, the University of Texas lost to Oral Roberts University, 3-2.

In April, the Longhorns went unbeaten, and through the first week in May, UT is also perfect heading into this weekend's three-game series against Kansas State at Tointon Family Stadium - 6:30 p.m. Friday, 2:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

Kansas State, No. 20 in the nation with a 31-13 record, which includes a second-place 10-7 mark, will try to stop the No. 1 ranked Horns, who have won 21 games in a row, which includes a Big 12-record 17 straight in conference play. It marks the first time since 2004 that the No. 1 team (Texas) in the country visited Manhattan.

"They're the hottest team in the nation," said K-State coach Brad Hill about the Longhorns. "What they do best is pitch it, and then Augie (Garrido) is one of the best coaches in the country. They will be very well prepared for us."

Most recently, Texas has swept Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, plus Baylor last week by a combined score of 10-4, which included 10- and 14-inning games. The Longhorns need only one more league win to wrap up the league title.

"They do a great job of playing small ball to get the early lead, and then they can turn it on late with good power," said Hill.

Texas does rank last in the league in hitting with a team average of .288, but ranks third in home runs with 54.

On the flip side, K-State leads the league in hitting at .328, but ranks last in home runs with 28.

Nick Martini of the Wildcats leads the Big 12 with a .423 average, while Adam Muenster is third at .394, Blair DeBord ninth at .377 and Daniel Dellasega 13th at .363.

K-State's fancy averages will be tested by UT's pitching staff that includes Taylor Jungmann (4-1, 2.40, 89 strikeouts and 25 walks), Cole Green (9-0, 1.62, 55 strikeouts and 19 walks) and Brandon Workman (9-1, 2.77, 71 strikeouts and 13 walks).

Concerning to Hill is the fact that K-State enters the series coming off a split with a sub-.500 Minnesota team in a mid-week two-game set where it lost the last game, 3-0, and, the fact that in Big 12 play it has gone 1-4 in the last two series with Missouri and Oklahoma.

"We're not playing great baseball. We're playing in spurts," said Hill of KSU's 4-5 record in the last nine games. "We're doing the things that create losing. We're not pitching it well and we're falling behind early, and then we haven't had timely hitting. We're leaving a lot of men on base."

On playing the No. 1 team in the nation, Hill says it carries no more importance than the remaining six games of the season against Kansas and Texas A&M in the next two weeks.

"It's always an important series when you're going against the No. 1 team in the nation, but we're trying to treat it as just another team and another series in our season," said Dellasega, KSU's catcher. "We know there will be a big crowd and everyone will be pumped up, but what we have to do is keep our focus."