Thousands of local fans arrived at Phil Welch Stadium on Wednesday evening as the St. Joseph Mustangs held their season opener.
The MINK League has officially began, and the Mustangs have prepared to potentially be at the top of the North Division. While it is a competitive season, team manager Johnny Coy puts an emphasis on the team having fun more than anything else.
“For the most part, just have fun,” Coy said. “There’s going to be a lot of people here, and a lot of these guys haven’t played in front of this many people before. Just keep you cool, play the game of baseball that you know how to play and just have fun — that’s the most important part.”
Although the Mustangs are trying to win every game that they play, they do their best to have fun. The uplifting atmosphere at Phil Welch makes it easier.
“The atmosphere here is awesome, it couldn’t be any better. I love how our fans support the St. Joseph Mustangs, and our guys are really excited to play in front of the crowd. It’s a perfect relationship that we have with the fans,” Coy said.
The Mustangs roster is full of a variety of players from all over. There are players who are in college and players who are attempting to go to the big leagues. Infielder Josh Lincoln, 21, has been a part of this team for three years, and has enjoyed every second of it.
“It’s great being a Mustangs payer,” Lincoln said. “My first year here I was a little nervous, but it’s great. The fans are just amazing and we play with some great guys.”
While the attendance is different at various levels, many first-time Mustangs players aren’t used to the large crowds in St. Joseph.
“College baseball is taken a lot more serious, but you don’t get these type of fans here. I’m used to playing in front of like 50 fans at college, but here there’s thousands of people every day,” Lincoln said.
With the season going all the way into the end of July, there are a lot of games to play — including 27 home match ups. Spending so much time in the area, many players are recognized all around town during their time away from the ball field.
“It’s great. Everywhere I go, people notice me as a Mustangs player. Kids coming up to me, and wanting to get their picture taken with me makes me feel like a superstar out here,” Lincoln said.
With such a long season, having multiple back-to-back games, it can be exhausting for the players. However, the Mustangs are known to be a very successful baseball team in the past, so they are trying to keep that tradition going.
“There’s going to be a lot of games, and you guys are going to get tired. Just let me know, and I’ll give you a day off,” Coy said. “We have a big tradition to be here in St. Joseph as the Mustangs to win a lot of games. We’re usually favored to win the division, and there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that — and the guys are ready for the challenge.”
The Mustangs are looking to bounce back after finishing second in the North Division with a 24-24 record last year, while also having fun.