FROM PRESS RELEASE
Kilgore, TX (January 16, 2008) – “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” will have a new ring for East Texas residents beginning this summer, breathing new life into an ageless Kilgore landmark.
A new summer collegiate baseball franchise is coming to East Texas this summer, it was announced at a press conference this afternoon. The new team will play at Kilgore’s Driller Park, returning a summer baseball franchise back to the ballpark for the first time since 1950.
“We are very excited about bringing this baseball team to Kilgore and baseball fans throughout East Texas,” said Mike Lieberman of East Texas Sports & Entertainment (ETSE), the firm that will own and operate the new team. But Lieberman was quick to point out the team will effectively belong to the community. “From the very beginning, we hope that fans will embrace this team as their own. We’re even giving the community the opportunity to name the team!”
Alan Poff, a partner in ETSE, emphasized that the new team will offer much more than simply baseball games. “Coming to the ballpark will be three hours of fun, an entertainment extravaganza,” said Poff. “Along with nine innings of tremendous baseball, fans can be a part of games on the field like the Dizzy Bat Race, enjoy in-game contests and win prizes, marvel at fireworks shows, collect giveaways like T-shirts and baseball cards, and dance with the team mascot.”
Added ETSE partner Brett Cox: “This is affordable, family-friendly entertainment, right here in our own backyard. You don’t even have to be a baseball fan to enjoy it!”
But baseball fans will certainly be treated by the new franchise. The team will play in the Texas Collegiate League (TCL), a four-year-old summer collegiate baseball circuit that boasts some of the top prospects in the college game. A summer collegiate league gives college baseball players the opportunity to get added experience in a minor league-style environment, using the tools of the professional trade: wood bats. All TCL players are currently enrolled in college, playing for some of the top baseball programs in the country, and all players must have remaining college eligibility.
Since players are using wood instead of the aluminum bats employed during their college seasons every spring, Major League scouts pay close attention to player performance in summer collegiate leagues. Scouts have been especially focused on the TCL; even though it’s only four years old, the league has seen 158 players with ties to the TCL drafted by Major League organizations. TCL alumni include Hunter Pence, the star rookie for the Houston Astros who finished third in voting for the 2007 National League Rookie of the Year award, and Clay Buchholz, who tossed a no-hitter for the Boston Red Sox in September in just his second big league start. It is expected that scouts will be in attendance at Driller Park to evaluate talent on the new team.
The new franchise joins four other teams currently in the TCL: The Coppell Copperheads, McKinney Marshals, Wichita Falls Roughnecks, and the Brazos Valley Bombers, who call Bryan home. The Copperheads won the league title in 2007 to become the first two-time champion in league history.
The TCL schedule is expected to be 48 games this season, with 24 games at home at Driller Park and 24 on the road. The season opens in early June and runs through the beginning of August. At the end of the season, a league playoff determines the TCL champion.
Fans will be able to purchase season tickets to reserve seats for every game of the season, with ticket options ranging from Driller Park’s box seating to general admission. Some seats will even include perks usually reserved for only the most prestigious seating in Major League venues, such as in-your-seat wait service. The team plans to install a picnic deck at the ballpark to accommodate pre-game picnics and casual in-game seating. Fans will also be able to arrange birthday parties at games, and groups as small as 25 can qualify for discounted tickets.
Driller Park, long considered a top baseball facility, will be home to a baseball franchise for the first time in 58 years. The park was originally built in 1947 from pipe, storage tank steel, and other materials from the famous East Texas Oil Field. Its first tenant, the Kilgore Drillers of the Class C Lone Star League, won consecutive league championships in its first two seasons. The Lone Star League – which featured teams from area cities like Longview, Tyler, Henderson, Jacksonville, and Marshall – played for two more seasons before folding after the 1950 season. Even though Driller Park hasn’t had a minor league team of its own since then, it remains as colorful and vibrant as ever. The same park that once hosted Elvis Presley is now home of the Kilgore High School Bulldogs as well as a plethora of regional high school playoff games. Organizers expect the new TCL franchise will only add to Driller Park’s legacy.
Despite the obvious focus on the team’s summer schedule, Lieberman emphasized that team will be active in the community year-round. From holiday parades to charitable functions to youth league events, the team and its personnel will be visible and accessible twelve months out of the year. A mascot and an energetic promotional team will become staples at community events, regardless of the season.
“We’ve got a few documents still to finalize, but that isn’t going to stop us from getting engaged in the community immediately,” said Lieberman. He noted that the team will immediately hit the ground running, kicking off a “Name Your Team” contest and launching a new team web site at www.newbaseballteam.com.
In the coming weeks, fans can expect a series of announcements and developments. The “Name Your Team” contest will run through next week, and very soon fans will be able to sign up for season tickets. A head coach will be selected in the near future, after which the team will quickly work on assembling a roster of players. The franchise will also announce the new team name, unveil a logo, release uniform designs, offer team logo merchandise, and develop a schedule of exciting promotions, all in the next few months.
“This is a very exciting time, but before we start running full speed ahead, we have to thank some of the people who have been instrumental in getting this endeavor off the ground,” said Lieberman. He singled out Kilgore Chamber of Commerce President Mike Coston, who has supported this project from the very beginning. Kilgore ISD Superintendent Jerry Roberts, incoming Superintendent Jody Clements, Director of Business Services Revard Pfeffer, and the entire Board of Trustees showed tremendous vision in allowing the new team to share Driller Park. City of Kilgore City Manager Jeff Howell and the City Council also showed overwhelming support for bringing a community asset like this to Kilgore and East Texas.
“We’re thankful for the support that we have received already, and we hope to validate that support from the very beginning. We look forward to making this community proud of who we are and what we achieve, both on the field and off, for years to come.”