News From Terre Haute, Indiana

From the Press Box

June 2, 2010

From the Press Box: Sad and exciting day for sports in Terre Haute

TERRE HAUTE — I’m endlessly fascinated by the yin and yang of life. Today is a yin and yang day if there ever was one as far as Terre Haute sports are concerned.

By the time you read this, it is likely that the Indianapolis Colts’ brass will be in Anderson as they announce their return to the Madison County city after an 11-year training camp run at Rose-Hulman in Terre Haute.

But while one team says goodbye, another team says hello. Tonight is the season opener for the Terre Haute Rex, the city’s new collegiate league baseball team and its first baseball team in a so-called organized league since 1958.

So while it’s a sad day for Terre Haute, it’s also an exciting day too.

First the sadness.

It’s long been rumored that the Colts would be leaving town, it’s been considered all but a foregone conclusion since at least mid-May, though neither Rose-Hulman nor the Colts would comment officially on it.

At risk of being called a homer, losing the Colts is not a devastating blow to Terre Haute — the presence of the Colts did not define this city either from a prestige standpoint or economically. Having said that, it’s silly to pretend that it’s not a sad day. The Colts will be missed.

People here love the Colts, a love that grew by being the Colts’ hosts for a few weeks each summer. Going to two Super Bowls and being one of the NFL’s best teams during their Terre Haute era didn’t hurt either.

It’s a shame the Colts and Rose-Hulman couldn’t come to an agreement to continue camp here, but the relationship between school and franchise have been cool in recent years and the relationship finally froze over as the return of camp was re-negotiated.

Did the Colts demand too much of Rose-Hulman? Only the Colts and Rose-Hulman know for sure. It’s not easy to host a NFL team, the demands that any NFL franchise ask from a host could be charitably described as diva-ish. That’s fine though. If you want to host the big boys, dealing with big-boy concerns is part of the freight you pay.

Did Rose-Hulman want more money to make hosting the team a worthwhile financial endeavor? It’s very likely and I wouldn’t blame Rose-Hulman if that were true. It’s not cheap for Rose-Hulman to host the Colts. Financial considerations include constant facility and grounds improvements, manpower hours and more. Rose-Hulman benefits from some of it, but not all of it.

In addition, the educational cache of Rose-Hulman isn’t affected one bit by whether the Colts are there or not, so I can understand why there would be reluctance on Rose-Hulman’s part to take any kind of loss for the sake of three weeks of publicity.

From my standpoint, there’s no regrets or ill feelings. The Colts were cooperative with us during the five camps I was here for. I wish them well in their new summer home.

Enough about goodbyes. Let’s talk about hellos.

The Colts used to be the summer sports anchor of the summer in the Wabash Valley. No longer. The Rex finally jump into a void that’s taken too long to fill. From mid-June to late July, spectator sports options in the Wabash Valley have been non-existent for several generations in a city that is as passionate about baseball as any I’ve lived in the state.

Having a baseball team gives sports fans in the area a focus for the summer … to say nothing of a place to chill out, have a beer, watch some baseball and have a short drive back home.

For those who haven’t been there for an Indiana State baseball game, remodeled Bob Warn Field is very nice. Fans who couldn’t care less about ISU sports are going to be pleasantly surprised today when they walk into Terre Haute’s new baseball digs.

Do the Rex have the cache of the Colts? Of course not. It would be silly to suggest that they’re even close at this stage.

But the Rex are ours and they do have an upside that’s completely different from hosting a NFL team. The Rex are fully aware that their success depends on how well they reach out to the community and make the team a part of our lives. Having a team you can call your own means a lot more to me than serving as hosts to a team you can’t.

So while Terre Haute is sad about losing the Colts, I think the city and Wabash Valley have it in them to celebrate the exciting new team that we do have.

Play ball!

Todd Golden is sports editor of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or todd.golden@tribstar.com. Check out Golden’s blog at blogs.tribstar.com/downinthevalley.

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