Once a Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk: Lee Ice

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Lee Ice was born and raised in Lawrence, Kan., and considers himself blessed never having to leave. Ice’s father was an American Legion baseball coach, who coached in Kansas. He believes this is one of the reasons he got into the sport. Ice never played for his dad until he was around 16, when he was old enough for American Legion.
Growing up in Lawrence, Ice was a Jayhawks fan, and dreamed of playing baseball for them. However, after high school he was not approached by the Kansas coaches to play for their club. After spending one season at a junior college in Iowa he transferred to play for his hometown team.
Ice knows he was very fortunate to play the game he loved, being the size that he was.
“I was very lucky,” Ice said. “I was really small. I was 80-some pounds in eighth grade, got to high school at 115. I always had a passion for baseball, I was always driven to play.”
Even with his small stature, he knew that baseball was what he wanted to pursue.
“(Every kid) has dreams and aspirations to play at the highest level you can possibly play,” Ice said. “But the reality of the situation is not many people do. I was pretty lucky growing up around it.”
Ice was a Jayhawk baseball player for three years, from 1976-78, and was a captain of the team during ’77 and ’78. He never claimed to be the biggest or the strongest, but credited his work ethic for getting him to the level he was at.
He led the team in several categories during his time playing, he led in runs, RBI’s and walks in 1798. However, he knew that he could contribute to the program more than just on the field. After some time away from the Jayhawk baseball program, Ice returned as a graduate assistant coach from 1983-90.
His passion for coaching and helping others is what he still enjoys doing today. Ice is now the Youth Sports Director for the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department and has been for 24 years. He loves teaching kids how sports can impact their lives.
“I consider myself lucky to be able to give back to the community I’ve been involved with throughout my whole life,” Ice said. “My job is to improve the quality of life for the citizens living in the City of Lawrence.”
Ice takes that mission statement to heart.
“For me, it’s to enhance the quality of life of those who are between six and 16 years old,” Ice said. “I look at myself as kind of an athletic director. I plan everything for the kids as far as youth sports. It’s all of the preparation prior to the games themselves. It’s setting the schedules, getting the coaches, getting equipment and providing field space, all of these things. And once the games start, they (the kids) go. If you’re prepared up front, everything runs fine.”
Ice has a personal mission for wanting to run youth athletics.
“In youth sports, it’s always about the kids,” Ice said. “It’s also educating the adults. The kids just want to play. It’s all about keeping the game in perspective and having the experience that I’ve had, I try and tell parents to keep the game in perspective. It goes by pretty fast, so just let the kids have fun. It’s going to teach them life-long lessons later on. Even in their jobs: showing up on time, working as a team, sportsmanship. All of those types of things athletics teach you, it pertains to everyday life.
“The games aren’t life and death. Life is life and death. You can be mad or sad when you lose, but you have to learn to let it go. Until you’ve honestly lost a loved one, that’s what life and death is. To me, (youth sports) is all about keeping it in perspective. It’s all about those relationships you’ve built along the way, too.”
Ice is helping the city that he grew up in and gave so much to him just by doing what he loves. That doesn’t happen for many people and Ice knows just how privileged he is.
He’s been fortunate enough to never having had to leave Lawrence, besides that one year of junior college ball. He’s been lucky enough to play for his hometown team. And now he’s in the opportunity to give back to the youth of the town he grew up in.
Not often are the adults taught what athletics should and could teach their children, but Ice takes that responsibility upon himself because he realizes the importance. Too often, kids are too hard on themselves for losses. Even more often, their parents are even harder on them. Ice is teaching families invaluable lessons that will help them throughout their futures.
While being so involved with youth sports in Lawrence, Ice still makes time for Kansas’ sports teams, especially baseball. He was even on the hiring committee for current Jayhawk skipper Ritch Price.
“I try and make it to as many games as I can,” Ice said. “I still have connections with the program so it’s fun to come around and check in on them. I think Coach Price is definitely taking steps in the right directions, and I’m excited about where we’re going.”
It seems that Ice has everything he needs here in Lawrence, Kan. When you have everything, why ever leave?
Once A Jayhawk, Always A Jayhawk.