TERRE HAUTE —
The new owners of the Terre Haute Rex baseball team laid out their game plan Tuesday and asked for the community’s support to keep a good thing going.
“We’re keeping this entertainment, America’s pastime, right here in Terre Haute,” said Bruce Rosselli, the team’s new general manager and one of its new owners, during a news conference at Hulman & Co.’s Clabber Girl restaurant in downtown Terre Haute.
Last Friday, those involved confirmed that the Indiana State University Foundation had sold the team to Wabash Valley Baseball LLC, a Terre Haute corporation whose member-owners are Brian Dorsett, Rosselli, Bob Brown, John Newton, Ray Kepner and Kevin Hoolehan.
Five of the six are ISU alumni, and Hoolehan is retired from the ISU Foundation.
Rosselli is the general manager, a paid position, while Dorsett is the member manager. Bobby Segal is the new head coach (see story, B1).
The team will remain in the Prospect League, a summer college wooden-bat league and will still be called the Terre Haute Rex, named after Rex Coffee, which is produced by Clabber Girl.
The team also will continue to play at Bob Warn Field, subleasing it from the ISU Foundation for four seasons, from June 1, 2014, to Aug. 31, 2017.
“We have a group of guys that really are wanting to support baseball in the summer in Terre Haute,” said Dorsett, a former major-league catcher. “It’s been wonderful to see this whole thing come together.”
Dorsett served as head coach of the team for its first three years, and during that time, had the opportunity to coach his son, Brandon, for two years.
Coaching Terre Haute Rex “was probably some of the best years of my life outside of playing the game of baseball,” Dorsett said.
The ISU Foundation decided to sell the team because it was no longer part of the organization’s mission; foundation officials also had cited financial challenges in maintaining the team.
“We had a wonderful four years on the baseball field,” said Ron Carpenter, ISU Foundation president. He said he’s happy the Rex name and logo will continue for the team, which will make for a “smooth, seamless transition.”
During the news conference, Carpenter said, “I can’t think of any better individuals to take on this franchise than the group that’s come together to purchase it.”
Under the ISU Foundation’s ownership, the Rex earned a 133-98 record and reached the Prospect League’s postseason twice. The Rex also averaged more than 27,000 fans per season and attracted support from a variety of local businesses.
One of Rosselli’s roles is to get the word out about Terre Haute Rex and “to be on the road a lot talking to potential sponsors and vendors,” Dorsett said.
Rosselli told those gathered, “Two months ago, maybe even six weeks ago, I would have never dreamed I would be in this position.”
It was difficult to leave his job with the Terre Haute city parks department, he said, noting that Mayor Duke Bennett — his former boss — was in the audience. “We want him to be part of this,” Rosselli said.
Rosselli noted that for the first two years of the Rex baseball team, he was a volunteer speed and strength coach. He hopes to have Little League, Baby Ruth and high school teams attending games. Playing for Terre Haute Rex “is something they can aspire to,” he said.
He noted that Clabber Girl, “one of the first ones to step out on the ice” and sponsor the team when it began, plans to increase its sponsorship for the next season.
The Terre Haute Rex wants to expand recognition of its sponsors and increase signage, both inside the stadium and out in the community, including along Third Street, Rosselli said.
He and other owners want to convey a similar message to the community. “It’s not our team, it’s your team. … Every person who buys just one ticket, they are part of this team,” Rosselli said.
Dorsett introduced new head coach Segal, formerly a Rex assistant coach under Dorsett. “I’m very humbled and honored to be here as the manager of the Rex for the 2014 summer,” said Segal, a former Indiana University catcher and now an assistant coach at Wabash Valley College in Illinois.
He said he wants the Terre Haute Rex structure “to be professional to its highest standard,” so team members who eventually move on to professional careers will have a strong idea of what it’s like.
He said there will be “high expectations” of players on a game-to-game basis, and they’ll also be expected to get involved in the community.
As the news conference concluded, Dorsett said, “It’s going to be a wonderful ride. We need you all involved.”
He also noted that the term “Rex-nation” will be used a lot. “Get used to seeing that. We’re going to make it grow and get bigger and better,” Dorsett said.
After the news conference, Rosselli said that while owners didn’t buy the team as a profit-making venture, “We have to be solvent. We have to be in the black to make it last … otherwise we can’t keep it here.”
Owners want more people to attend and more businesses to be sponsors.
They also want to bring in more entertainment, such as dance teams or school bands.
Ticket prices will remain pretty much the same, although there could be an increase of a few dollars for some of the lower cost general admission seating, Rosselli said.
The Rex will open the 2014 season on May 27 at Danville. The Rex will also host the 2014 Prospect League all-star game July 7-9.
“It’s something where I think we can help stimulate the economy,” Rosselli said.
Hoolehan, one of the new owners, was asked why he wanted to be part of Wabash Valley Baseball LLC. “Who doesn’t want to own a baseball team?” he said.
Community is a big part of it, he said. “It’s not an investment in a baseball team. It’s an investment in the community. We think Terre Haute with a baseball team is way better than Terre Haute without a baseball team.”
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org