Former Cat Takes K-State to the Plate

The following is a blog post from Corey Binn, the Head Clubhouse Manager for the Dayton Dragons, a Class A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. To view his blog on the Dragons' website, please click here.

When standing straight up in a bat rack, most players' baseball bats all look the same. During any given game there could be 40 or 50 bats to choose from, and it can become quite a challenge for a player to locate which one is his. Because of this fact, most players will place their jersey number or initials on the end of their bat to make identifying it a bit easier.

For Dayton Dragons outfielder Byron Wiley, labeling the knob of his bat means a little more. Wiley played his collegiate baseball at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. He was an outstanding hitter, finishing his three years there with a .306 average. As a sophomore, Wiley hit .366 in 55 games with seven homers, 44 runs batted in and 14 stolen bases. This all led to Wiley being selected in the 22nd round of the 2008 MLB First Year Player Draft by the Cincinnati Reds.

"I loved my time spent at Kansas State and in the city of Manhattan. It is a hard place to explain to people. It truly is a wonderful college town and the fans will back you all the time," Wiley said. "That place helped me mature as a person and as a player. It is such a close knit town. I hope to send my kids there someday."

I also have a strong connection and liking for Kansas State University. My good friend Andy Assaley is the Director of Men's Basketball Operations for the Wildcats, and I am also very close to Head Basketball Coach Frank Martin and Head Video Coordinator Dylan Lockwood. For these reasons I visit "The Little Apple" (Manhattan, KS) once a year for a week or so.

When Spring Training started this season in Florida, I sought out Wiley and quickly befriended him, talking about KSU and Manhattan. I was extra excited when I found out Wiley would be placed in Dayton to start the season with the Dragons.

"It was great to meet someone that shared the same passion, love and respect for that place (KSU) like I do. And to find out that you didn't even go to school there made it more special. Talking about different things really took me back to what I know," Wiley said.

Early in the season, Wiley would come back to my office to get another one of his bats out of the box and asked me to label the top for him with my Sharpie. I put a KSU slogan on the top, something Wiley instantly loved. "I love heading up to the plate and glancing down at the handle. To me, KSU means hard work ethic and prestige, things I try to think about during my at bats," Wiley said.

From then on, each time Wiley comes to my office to get a new bat, he always asks me to put some sort of Kansas State saying or slogan on the end of it. He says his favorite was "Aggieville," a reference to the early KSU days when they were known as the "Aggies" and also a popular commercial district in town. Currently he is swinging two bats labeled, "Wiley the Wildcat" and "E.M.A.W," (Every Man A Wildcat) and they have brought him great success.

"Corey helped me start a tradition that I hope to carry through the rest of my professional career," Wiley said. "I will always bleed KSU purple and it will be with me at every at bat."