TERRE HAUTE —
The Terre Haute Rex went through plenty of trials and tribulations during the summer of 2012.
The team got off to a sluggish start to settle for third place during the first half of the Prospect League race, but manager Brian Dorsett rallied the troops to a second-half title.
The Rex finished with a 38-22 overall record, good for second best among the 12 teams in the league.
Off the field, the Rex were pleased with improvements they made to promotions during the game, and sponsorships from the community gained steam for the second straight summer.
The franchise did not reach its goals for improving on attendance, which was more than 1,000 fans per game in 2011. The Rex averaged 925 in 2012, but the brutal heat wave deserves a chunk of the blame.
“We had several teams start out on record pace and then slow down a little bit with the heat. I think we saw it here,” Prospect League commissioner David Chase said.
Rex general manager Casey DeGroote agreed.
“The heat was just unbearable at times from mid-to-late June to end of July. We still had a bunch of fans come out and support us even when it was hot,” DeGroote said. “Still, to average 925 fans, just 90 fans off of what we did the year before. That was good to see.”
Chase was on hand to see the Rex clinch the second-half West Division title in early August. He left impressed by the operation, which included community businesses such as Louise’s Copper Catering and Bagnoche Sports adding to the professional experience.
“There aren’t too many community league teams where you see people in the community wearing the Rex gear around town. You see a lot of that here,” Chase said.
“That is the essence of what I want the Prospect League to be. I want it to be your baseball team in your community in the summer. We can supplement what the universities do in our town and the youth leagues, but I want us to own the community in July and August.”
DeGroote, who was promoted to GM role in July, said recently that community presence for the Rex is a goal everyone in the organization has kept their sights on.
One way to achieve that is by bringing in quality people to play for the team.
“Every single guy this year was just great,” DeGroote said. “No bad attitudes. It showed in our record. Best record in the three years. Had [six] guys that made the All-Star team.”
Rex closer Nick Blount said earlier this summer he really enjoyed being in Terre Haute. He was named the league’s top prospect. The 6-foot-6 right-handed pitcher throws in the mid-90s.
The Rex already have former players such as Stephen Bruneau playing in the minor leagues, hoping to have alumni of the team play in the major leagues some day.
Manager Brian Dorsett feels he and his coaching staff have helped some players from the 2012 on their way to achieving those goals.
Learning to play baseball every day, including hitting with a wooden bat, is a grind. Dorsett was impressed by how the players were sponges for information.
“They really wanted to learn the game,” Dorsett said. “They asked a lot of questions. Wanted to know how things worked. What we saw in certain situations. Knowing the situation and knowing how to look at a situation. Being willing to come out and practice, first and thirds. Pickoffs and those types of things.”
The work ethic of the Rex was a huge reason for the team’s success, Dorsett relayed, which makes managing the young men a positive experience for him.
“Just being on a roll where you start seeing them play the game how it should be played. Making sure they are respecting the game and playing hard at all times. Everybody there did that. That’s the most rewarding thing,” Dorsett said. “They did respect the game. They went out there always playing hard, every pitch, every inning. They weren’t taking plays off, giving at-bats up. That’s the most rewarding part.”
Dorsett, who was in the final year of a three-year commitment as the manager of the Rex, said his coaching staff was fantastic to work with every day.
“Ronnie Prettyman, Bobby Segal and John Howes, we all like to work,” Dorsett said. “The fans see the game. There’s so much that goes into preparing to play that game. Bobby Segal and Ronnie made themselves available to do that, and I worked a lot with catching and hitters.”
The Rex lost 3-2 in a one-game playoff with first-half West Division champion Dubois County to end the season abruptly. Dorsett said he would prefer a series in that situation. Plus, he felt the Rex should have been granted home-field advantage because of their better overall record.
Overall, though, he’ll take nothing but positive memories away from the season.
“We came down to the end fighting. In the second half, we dominated the second half. That’s something these guys all knew. They wanted it. Kudos to them,” Dorsett said. “Every year, the organization has gotten better on the field.”