Go inside the locker room and hear about life playing collegiate summer league baseball.
The Owensboro Oilers are the 2014 Regular Season and Postseason Champions of the Ohio Valley Summer Collegiate Baseball League. The Oilers followed up their League-best regular season record of 27 wins and 13 losses with a four win playoff run. Owensboro took the best-of-three third round Championship series in sweeping fashion, two games to none, finished on Tuesday night with a 4 to 1 score over the visiting Hopkinsville Hoppers.
Tuesday night’s game was scoreless through the top of the 4th inning. The Oilers took the lead with three runs in the bottom of the 4th inning. Morgan Grisham led off the home inning with a single. Alfredo Bohorques reached on an error. Jake Wilson reached safely on a bunt to load the bases. Tyler Rachel delivered a deep RBI sacrifice fly, scoring Grisham and moving Bohorques and Wilson respectively to third base and second base. Christian McHatton followed with a 2-RBI single that brought in both men ahead of him.
Hopkinsville narrowed the lead with a lone run in the top of the 6th inning. Mitchell Gallagher reached on a fielder’s choice that put a walked batter out at second base. Parker Cash followed with a single as Gallagher went to second base. A fly out later, Taylor Ellis RBI singled to plate Gallagher and push Cash onto third base. A foul fly out ended the Hoppers rally.
Owensboro answered with an equalizing run in the bottom of the 6th inning. With one out, McHatton singled. Braxton Brinkley followed with a double, putting runners on second base and third base. Harold Diaz reached on a fielder’s choice that put Brinkley out. Dalton West delivered the two-out RBI single to bring McHatton across. At the end of six complete innings the score was 4 to 1 in the home team’s favor. The same score held to become the final.
Starter Jordan Kesson collected the Chamionship win, throwing six strong innings for the Oilers. Cable Wright and Kevin Meyer combined to attest to Owensboro’s deep bullpen, holding down the 7th and 8th innings. League-leading closer Mark Chemello notched the save in the top of the 9th inning , working around a lead-off hit to face just four batters in retiring the last side. Hopkinsville starter Jake McAdams took the season-ending loss. Well-wishes to all the Hopkinsville Hoppers, heading home after this series. The best to all the other OVL franchises as well.
Owensboro will look back with fondest memories to the talented young men who have been the Owensboro Oilers of 2014. These are the players who claimed the 200th franchise win. They never lost more than two consecutive games all season, and now hold the highest season winning percentage in
Oilers franchise history. They have the combined OVL championships an achievement other teams will only be able to match, but never top. They should rightly be proud of themselves, and all Owensboro proud of them.
Their on-field success comes because of — not in spite of — the hard work of the Owensboro Oilers organization. Congratulations to anyone and everyone who participates with the Oilers. In the league’s largest, often most distracted city, dedicated people continue to contribute to keeping the Owensboro Oilers on the field.
Winning is appreciated. Championships are memorable. The true motivation, season after season, for the people behind the Owensboro Oilers is in providing young men the opportunity to characterize themselves through the game of baseball. The 2014 Owensboro Oilers season stands as a lasting testament to a roster of players who did that, and the Oilers baseball fans, who encouraged it happening game by game.
A 23-year-old college baseball player from Venezuela steps up to the plate as the public announcer makes an attempt (unsuccessfully) to pronounce his last name on the first try. Alfredo Bohorques doesn’t care; he’s zoned in on the pitcher standing 60 feet in front of him. Bohorques nails a ground ruled single off the first pitch. His base hit won’t last though, as he’s thrown out trying to steal second. With 13 stolen bases this season it’s easy to see why he’d try for 14.
While this might sound like play-by-play right out of a major league baseball game, the salaries for these “boys of summer” are a far throw from the multi-million dollar contracts and signing bonuses of the majors. That’s because these players work for free. This is life in the Ohio Valley Summer Collegiate League playing for the Owensboro Oilers. However, don’t tell Bohorques he’s not playing MLB ball… he doesn’t care; for him and the 28 other players on the Oilers, it truly is for the love of the game.
“I’ve been playing baseball since I was three years old,” Bohorques said during a phone interview. “It’s my life.”
I managed to call and interrupt his afternoon workout session. The daily two-hour workout comes after breakfast, which comes after waking up at 8:00 a.m. That may sound like no big deal, but when you get off the bus at 1:30 in the morning, coming home from your away game the night before, it takes a lot more dedication not to hit the snooze button.
“Four nights on, one night off,” according to Vic Evans, Jr., the Owensboro Oilers head coach. “We’ll play 40 to 50 games in a summer. It’s a grind, but it’s so much fun.”
Fun and a little romantic, Evans says. The idea of playing baseball in these small town stadiums on a balmy yet starry summer night is what the game is all about.
“I think, if you’re a baseball fan, it’s the epitome of a perfect night,” he said. “There’s no place I’d rather be than at the ballpark.”
The Oilers are one of five teams from western Kentucky and southeastern Indiana that make up the Ohio Valley Summer Collegiate League. The teams are made up of collegiate baseball players looking to stay in shape and play some ball during their college off-season. Bohorques plays for St. Catharine College in Kentucky. In addition, the Oilers have players from Western Kentucky University, Brescia University, Murray State and other colleges across Kentucky and the Midwest. Evans says the league is very competitive, and on more than one occasion, scouts have been among the hometown crowd eyeing potential recruits for colleges and even the major league affiliates.
“We’re not the Cape Cod League, which is by far the number one league,” Evans said. “But you’re going to have that kid every now and then [that gets drafted].”
The Cape Cod Baseball League is one of more than three dozen summer leagues around the country. The CCBL attracts big name college players, churns out future MLB pros and was the setting for the “dreamy” 2001 romantic comedy Summer Catch, starring Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Jessica Biel (I’ll admit…I saw the movie). Evans says while some of the Hollywood portrayal of small town baseball is exaggerated, some is also pretty spot on.
“The guys aren’t making any money,” Evans states. “We loaded an ‘old timey’ bus without AC and drove three hours to a game.” (Speaking about the Oilers game against the Fulton Railroaders on July 8.)
Out-of-town players like Bohorques live in the Brescia University dorms during June and July while they’re playing. Others who hail from Owensboro and the surrounding counties live with family. Some of the players try and get part-time jobs to have a little spending money, but some just workout, sleep and play baseball. The opposing teams feed players when they’re on the road, and Evans says the locker room is always a fun (and sometimes wild) place to be. For Evans, it’s rewarding to see the friendships that are forged during the short summer season.
So what fuels these college kids? Passion for the game and the fans keep them going each hot and sticky night. Bohorques says he enjoys seeing the fans come out and cheer, and even more, he loves seeing the kids who look up to the players as if they’ve made it to the majors. He says he’s always excited to give a kid a ball or sign an autograph. On any given night, the Oilers can see between 200 and 400 fans come through the gates to watch the game. Evans says the one exception is the Dubois County Bombers, where the Oilers have played in front of as many as 2,000 or more screaming baseball fans. The Bombers play in the historic League Stadium, which was built in 1894 and was the backdrop for the movie A League of Their Own.
Even with a dedicated fan base, Owensboro Oilers President, Charlie Pierce, says more awareness about the league and the team is always needed.
“They [the community] don’t know enough, and that’s our fault,” said Pierce. “We have been much better on the field [playing baseball], than we have off the field when it comes to marketing.”
Still, the Ohio Valley League is on the move, and looking to grow as a summer league. Pierce also serves as the Vice President of the OVL in addition to his role as the President of the Oilers. He says the league is talking about adding teams in Nashville, Paducah and Mayfield.
As you’re reading this article, the Oilers season has come to a close… but as they say in the world of sports, “there’s always next year.” That’s the direction Pierce and Evans are looking as they help move the Owensboro Oilers forward.
“I think if people come out and give it a shot and watch a game, they’ll be back,” Pierce said. It’s a lot of fun, just great, competitive baseball.”
If you’re interested in volunteering or being a corporate sponsor with the Oilers, you can contact Pierce by email at email@example.com. More information about the team and the league can be found online at www.owensborooilers.com.