White Oak’s new summer collegiate baseball team is going to make every home run in the local ball park even more memorable.
On the spot, Marc Schuster says, “We’ll carve a wooden bat out of a piece of wood,” awarding it to a young fan in the audience. According to the founder of the growing Mid-America League, it’s another way to make the new franchise special for local fans and their visiting players.
“We might not win every game, but we’re going to entertain you. We’re very proud to be here.”
Schuster joined the new Piney Woods team’s president and co-owner, David Upchurch, at White Oak City Park’s baseball facilities Saturday afternoon, welcoming a crowd of 125-plus for the ribbon cutting on the new venture. Team Owner Dany Chenail flew in from Canada for the event alongside Coach Matt Perisho and General Manager Eric Newendorf.
White Oak’s the third team in the growing Mid-America League. With their official name-drop set Feb. 1, the operation’s principals are looking forward to the first home game Friday, May 31.
“This is what we do. We love what we do,” said Schuster, CEO of Ventura Sports Group. “The fact that this many people showed up for an event like this says something about the market, says something about the people.”
The audience dug into a barbecue lunch while the team leaders laid out their plans for the months –ahead. With 68 games on the schedule, 34 will be played in White Oak after key upgrades are made to –the community’s field.
“Man, this is an awesome turnout,” White Oak City Coordinator Jimmy Purcell said, grateful for a bright day for the kick-off event. “I knew from the get-go this was going to be a big deal for White Oak.”
Schuster’s been working in baseball entertainment for more than three decades. In recent years, he’s been pursuing a southern-based league across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. Rapidly taking shape, four teams are now in the lineup including Abilene, Sherman and White Oak’s Piney Woods outfit plus the most recent addition of Ft. Smith.
“We’re here really because of the people. The City of White Oak has been such a pleasure to work with. We’ve got a lot of exciting things happening,” he said. Upchurch is the brains of the operation, Schuster added, and the driver of the local effort: “He’s committed his entire life to baseball and improving young players’ lives on and off the field. He’s our All Star.”
The goal has been to help raise up young players, Upchurch said, guiding them as they leave their teenage years and continue into adulthood.
He’s grateful for the opportunity in White Oak, through baseball, “to teach them how to be real men and how to grow up and become great fathers and great grandparents,” the longtime ballplayer said. “This world is crazy, so we need strong, young, Christian men in our lives to help this next generation.
“This is a special place already in my heart.”
According to Schuster, most of the funds Chenail has invested will be put toward improving the fan experience. Doing business as ‘White Oak Sports & Entertainment,’ plans are in the works to add a beer garden at the field included areas that can be rented for personal and corporate events. There will be events and activities between innings plus an area for kids’ and live music performances down the road.
“I want to be able to mix my two passions, family and baseball,” Chenail said. “All of you showing up today shows me we made the right decision.
“We’ll try to make you proud, and we’ll try to make this a success.”
– By James Draper