TERRE HAUTE —
Mark Edwards’ life has come full circle.
After 13 years as Indiana State’s director of marketing, Edwards has returned to his childhood passion of baseball. He’s actually able to combine the two as he’s now handling marketing for the Terre Haute Rex.
He and West Terre Haute native Jimmie “The Kidd” Baugh are working together in the broadcast booth at Bob Warn Field.
Edwards spent part of his childhood retrieving bats in the visitors’ dugout at Wrigley Field. As a result, Edwards has a love for the Chicago Cubs — in addition to a treasure trove of collectibles that would make most Cubs fans drool.
“I started my career in radio, and was actually part of a morning team [at KMOX in St. Louis],” Edwards said in the days leading up to the Rex season.
His new role as the voice of the Rex has similar qualities.
“It’s much like a radio show where you entertain the public. You talk to them, you interact with them. This has all the same elements,” Edwards said.
Edwards’ witty intros prior to each opening pitch combined with Baugh’s musical expertise provides a lively atmosphere at Warn Field.
“We’re approaching it much like a morning show. Stunts, music, events,” Edwards said.
Baugh, who works in productions and promotions for Radio One in Indianapolis, adds sound effects and fills dead time during the games with fitting music.
“So far Mark and I have been able to develop a back-and-forth almost like a radio show. We just have fun. So far we think people are having fun,” said Baugh, who got his start announcing at West Vigo.
Edwards and Baugh are also working with ISU students Meika Tackett and Emily Shepherd, who interact with fans and involve them in contests between innings.
Minor League baseball has become famous for its promotions, and the Rex desire a similar reputation, creating a good time for the entire family.
Hula-hoop contests, dancing competitions, dizzy-bat races and water-balloon games are among the ways the Rex are getting fans on the field to enjoy the night out in Terre Haute.
General manager Roland Shelton said the team has come along way from last year in adding to the enjoyment for fans.
“It’s night and day. This is much more of a real atmosphere for our fans in terms of being in a baseball environment,” Shelton said. “Their quality music and the public announcing is just heads and shoulders above last year.”
Shelton would like to keep things fresh for all the returning fans.
“I like them mixing it up. They’ll find a rotation that will become fan favorites. Then there will be some that won’t work out,” Shelton said.
The Rex have more special nights for certain community groups planned, but you have to provide more entertainment than just baseball to keep families returning.
The Rex seem to be achieving their goals. Season-ticket sales almost doubled from 2010, and average game attendance was up to 884 per game after Saturday’s crowd of 1,309. That’s good for sixth in Prospect League. The teams above them on that list have been home to a summer collegiate league for years, if not decades. Five teams in the league are averaging below 300 fans per game.
Entertaining fans beyond the on-the-field product is a big part of getting people to make return a return trip.
“I started my career in major league ballparks. In those days, they didn’t do a whole lot of that,” Edwards said of in-game promotions. “Things have really changed since that time with promotions, especially on-the-field promotions, have become a big part of the experience. A lot of it has to do with the technology, and has to do with the promotional value.
“We’re going to keep the audience guessing. A lot of surprises, a lot of energy, a lot of fun.”
Edwards and Baugh have also welcomed Little League players and high school girls into the booth to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch — not unlike Wrigley Field.
Edwards even throws in a “let’s get some runs” afterward, ala Harry Caray.
“When Harry Caray came along and started singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ during the seventh inning; a lot of people think that’s been going on forever. It hasn’t been. That was considered a revolutionary approach,” Edwards said.
The 19-year-old Baugh is enjoying working with Edwards.
“We’re just out here to make people laugh, have a good time and enjoy the game,” Baugh said. “Baseball’s back in Terre Haute, so we just want everyone to enjoy it. As the year goes along, we have our window open the whole game, we want to interact with everybody.”