By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
Kenny Hook says he was in the midst of his hall-of-fame career at Crowder College when he decided he wanted to make a living in baseball.
Under the tutelage of longtime Crowder coach Gary Roark, Hook felt a pull toward coaching the game.
Now, 20 years later, Hook is back in the area, if only for a day, as the manager of a professional baseball club.
Hook’s Kansas City T-Bones face the Wichita Wingnuts in an exhibition at Joe Becker Stadium today at 2 p.m.
“Gary is a guy I attribute a lot of the success of my career to,” Hook said. “I learned a lot about the mental side of the game from him. That’s when I knew I wanted to go into coaching.”
Hook, originally from the Kansas City area, is in his second season as the T-Bones’ manager. He was hired as a bench coach in 2011 and was promoted to manager after Tim Doherty took a coaching staff assistant job with the Boston Red Sox.
“I feel very fortunate to be a manager in my hometown,” Hook said. “More than likely, when you’re pursuing a coaching job in pro baseball, you’re not going to be able to find something close to home. You’re going to have to relocated your family.
“I was lucky enough to be able to get a job in the town I grew up in and with an organization that runs a first-class team.”
Hook played at Crowder College in the 1994 and 1995 seasons before finishing his collegiate career at Armstrong Atlantic in Savannah, Ga., and Benedictine in Atchison, Kan.
He then spent six years playing professional ball, including four seasons with the Amarillo Dillas of the independent Texas-Louisiana League. He helped the Dillas to the 1999 TLL title.
After retiring, he was the hitting coach at Maple Woods Community College. He then coached at Benedictine while working on his masters degree before spending a season at Odessa College in Texas.
He then returned to Maple Woods as head coach and routinely met his alma mater in regular season and playoff games.
“We always went down and played Crowder and I always tried to get down for the alumni games,” said Hook, who was inducted into the Crowder Hall of Fame three years ago. “The Joplin area is a great baseball area. I’m down there quite a bit recruiting and for the Premier Tournament.
“I think folks will appreciate the brand of baseball we play and hopefully they’ll get to see two of the better teams in our league.”
Hook’s T-Bones finished the 2012 season 51-49, eight games behind the Wingnuts.
“We made a conscious effort to get better this offseason,” Hook said.