News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Terre Haute Rex

July 6, 2010

Terre Haute Rex manager Brian Dorsett happy to teach young players, represent his hometown

TERRE HAUTE — When Terre Haute’s Brian Dorsett played professional baseball in the 1980s and 1990s, he traveled all over the country and stayed in cities of all sizes.

Selected by the Oakland Athletics in the 10th round of the 1983 amateur draft out of Indiana State University, the 6-foot-3 Dorsett worked his way through the minor leagues and played catcher, first base and occasionally designated hitter during an eight-year Major League Baseball career. Included were stints with the Cleveland Indians, California Angels, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs.

Once Dorsett retired as a player in 1996 — after compiling nine home runs, 51 runs batted in and 38 runs scored in the majors — he could have worked in the front office or on the field for any number of pro organizations.

But he chose to remain in his western Indiana hometown, where he was born and where he graduated from Terre Haute North High School in 1979.

Dorsett said he and his wife Gina purchased a home in Terre Haute after they started having children.

“We felt like we wanted to raise our family here because this was where her immediate family was living and this was where my immediate family was living … and we loved Terre Haute,” Dorsett told the Tribune-Star over the weekend.

“There were plenty of opportunities to leave… But family has always been important to Gina and I. We were both born and raised here.”

Now 49, Dorsett has been anything but silent since he again made Terre Haute his full-time home.

As anyone who’s read the Tribune-Star, watched Terre Haute television or listened to local radio in the last 10 years should know, he owns the Dorsett Mitsubishi auto dealership. Since he purchased it in 2000 and moved it into its current building in southern Vigo County in 2001, his voice has frequently appeared in TV and radio commercials.

“Drive it home with Dorsett,” anyone?

Unlike some retired athletes, Dorsett saved a good chunk of his money, so that made the transition from baseball player to dealership owner relatively smooth. (According to Baseball-Reference.com, he earned approximately $210,000 from the Cubs in 1996, his final major-league season.)

After Dorsett retired as a player, he worked with his father Larry at Dorsett Auto Sales in 1997.

“I had grown up in the business,” Brian Dorsett recalled, “and my dad gave me advice on how to move up in the business.”

The natural next step for a well-known, financially stable, recently retired pro athlete who had grown up around cars was to buy his own dealership and put his name on it.

“I felt like Terre Haute was a good place to build on from what my family had started in the used-car business,” Dorsett explained.

The dealership isn’t Dorsett’s only connection to cars in the Wabash Valley.

In early 2008, he became a partner with “Radio Voice of the Indy 500” Mike King and Indy Racing League driver Davey Hamilton in what is now known as Action Promotions, LLC, which is in its third season of promoting races at the Terre Haute Action Track.

Dorsett remembers telling King when he first approached him about joining the partnership, “I’m real interested.”

Dorsett is glad he and his partners could help revive interest in the track, adding that he wanted to show out-of-towners that Terre Haute had a lot to be proud of.

Just last week, however, Track Enterprises, Inc., took over promotional reins at the Action Track for the rest of 2010. But the Action Promotions partners will stay involved to make sure the remaining races go off without a hitch.

Dorsett said Track Enterprises, owned by longtime Midwest promoter and former Action Track promoter Bob Sargent, and the O’Connor family from Kokomo should do a good job of finishing out the racing season at the historic half-mile dirt oval.

“They have all the experience with the [track preparation] machinery,” Dorsett mentioned. “We, along with USAC [the U.S. Auto Club], thought this was going to be the best solution to put a good product out there for the fans.”

Dorsett said he plans to sit down with King and Hamilton later this year to discuss whether they want to help promote races at the track in 2011.

“It’s a bigger challenge than anybody could expect, but it’s something I’ll never regret,” noted Dorsett, who had been a racing fan since he was a child. “It’s been a labor of love.”

As if Dorsett didn’t have enough on his plate, he hosted an afternoon sports talk show called “The Drive” on ESPN Radio (WBOW-AM 1300 and WSDX-AM 1130) for about three years, working with different partners at times as well as flying solo other times.

“I really enjoyed doing it,” Dorsett insisted. “It was only one hour a day and sometimes I could do it from my office at the dealership.”

His guests included Cam Cameron, Steve Weatherford, Tony McGee, Dick Vitale, Bobby Leonard, Larry Bird and Tommy John as well as a few well-known race drivers.

Dorsett already had accumulated some media experience by helping broadcast Indianapolis Indians games on TV since the late 1990s, a job he had dreamed of doing since he was a youngster.

When Dorsett played for the Class AA Huntsville Stars in 1985, he practiced for his future broadcasting adventures by doing fake interviews with the bus driver and providing fictional commentary for NASCAR races while the team took long rides to its next game.

Back to the present, Dorsett and ESPN Radio parted ways Jan. 1.

“My commitments in 2010 were changing,” he explained. “It made it easier to transition into managing the Rex [by not doing the radio show].”

Oh yeah, there’s also the Terre Haute Rex, the Prospect League baseball franchise for college players that debuted this summer. Dorsett was hired in January to manage the team.

“It’s a big commitment,” he reflected, “but it’s one I really enjoy.”

Last Wednesday, for example, Dorsett left Terre Haute at 10 a.m. for an evening game at Quincy, Ill. For weeknight home games, he usually arrives at Bob Warn Field at 3:30 or 3:45 p.m.

Even though Dorsett no longer has the radio gig, how does he balance family responsibilities, the car dealership, Action Track decisions and the Rex?

“I’ve got an awesome wife,” he emphasized. “She’s tremendous. I’ve also got a great business relationship with my dad and my managers and employees at the car dealership.”

Dorsett admitted that he’ll need to miss the July 14 Indiana Sprint Week event at the Action Track because he’ll be managing a Rex game at the Dubois County Bombers. But that’s to be expected, especially considering the new promotional arrangement at the track.

Back to the Rex, Dorsett said the toughest part of managing so far has been seeing players improperly execute the fundamentals of baseball.

“We’re having to teach them a lot about having to be an everyday player,” he said.

As with any baseball manager, Dorsett acknowledged that he becomes animated with his players on occasion to get their attention after they do something wrong.

“You want to make sure that when you pick those spots [to advise players on how to perform better],” he said, “it’s something the whole team can benefit from.”

Even when Dorsett becomes aggravated by a mistake on the field, he never wants to show up a specific player.

“We [on the coaching staff] feel like we’re teaching them about the game,” he said. “If we have to correct them and we have to be a little louder or more demonstrative than usual, we try to end it on a positive note.”

One of the Rex players that Dorsett manages is his son, Brandon, a right-handed pitcher.

“When he was younger, playing Little League and Babe Ruth, I was fortunate enough to coach him in that,” Brian Dorsett reflected. “Now doing this [with the Rex], it’s an extra blessing… It’s a pretty special opportunity that I’m thrilled about.”

Overall, Dorsett is thankful for being able to work with Gene Crume, president of the ISU Foundation (which owns the Rex), and Roland Shelton, general manager of the team.

“I love it,” Dorsett stressed. “Being a player and being a manager are completely different, though. I think losses come a little bit harder as a manager than as a player. You want the kids to enjoy that gratification when you do win. You get close to them and you want them to enjoy it all.”

Dorsett also expressed gratitude to Wabash Valley fans for being so supportive of this new team, which comes off its mid-season break Thursday with a home game against the Richmond River Rats.

“We have to have some entertainment in Terre Haute,” he pointed out. “Baseball is just a great form of summer entertainment.”

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