For Tony Lewis, leading has always come naturally, whether he was serving as captain of a baseball team or in his recent role as Springfield community bank president at The Bank of Missouri. Coming into this new position he sees an opportunity not only to lead a team of talented lenders, but to support up-and-coming entrepreneurs in southwest Missouri. “We see southwest Missouri as having great growth potential,” Lewis says. “There’s been a lot of investment into this area, and my job is to help grow that investment.”
Lewis’s path to banking took some unique turns. He played baseball throughout college at Missouri State University and then Drury University, and he spent three years playing professionally for independent teams in Toronto, Chicago and Quebec City.
His finance career began as a banker at Regions Bank. As he worked his way up at branches around the region, Lewis found a passion for lending. “What really sparked a lightbulb was when I did a home equity line for a farmer,” Lewis says. “I helped him build a barn and he had me come out to his location and said, ‘Tony, your home equity helped me build this.’ I actually saw it put into practice, and it was very tangible at that moment.”
Spreading his wings more with lending, Lewis moved on to Great Southern Bank, where he had the opportunity to work his way up as a credit analyst and quickly began handling much larger portfolios. While this experience was, at first, a bit like drinking from a firehose, Lewis was able to prove himself through his knowledge of the area and the relationships he’d built with developers. Great Southern Bank eventually gave him the opportunity to work in the Kansas City metropolitan area. After three years, Lewis and his growing family returned to Springfield. In July, he became community bank president at The Bank of Missouri.
Lewis is inspired by local leaders like Jack Stack and Johnny Morris—people he admires because of their individuality and vision, and he sees great opportunity in Springfield and the surrounding region.
“What’s happening in the Ozarks, as far as development, is really incredible,” Lewis says. “You haven’t seen this much excitement about our area ever since I’ve lived here. We’re entering a time where Springfield is trying to truly find its identity and it’s getting closer.”
Looking for a way to continue nurturing his love of baseball, Tony Lewis founded the Grip‘N’Rip Baseball League seven years ago. This adult wood-bat baseball league features six drafted teams that represent towns around the region. It’s made up of players from ages 21 to 60. They play at US Baseball Park in Ozark. And when they meet for games, they’re also giving back to the community. One dollar from each ticket sold goes to support the local nonprofits that sponsor the teams.