It’s sure starting to feel like summer out there.
Summer technically runs until the equinox on Sept. 23, although meteorologists sometimes put the end of the season at Aug. 31. Many view Labor Day as the unofficial last day of summer, with a final opportunity to enjoy outings like camping and boating.
We’d suggest another candidate for the definition of summer’s figurative, if not official demise: the day the St. Joseph Mustangs walk off the field for the final time at Phil Welch Stadium. In the last decade, the team has become synonymous with summer nights in St. Joseph.
The Mustangs capped off their regular season Sunday with a game against the Chillicothe Mudcats at Phil Welch. Under second-year manager Johnny Coy, this year’s club used a strong stretch run to win more than 30 games, including more than 20 in the MINK League. This follows a 24-24 mark in 2018.
Winning results on the field, along with a fun team that knows how to score runs, strike us as a cherry on the sundae. Win or lose, the Mustangs have struck the right chord with a crowd-centered philosophy, featuring promotions that range from “Star Wars” Night to Christmas in July.
The team has developed strong fan support since its inaugural season in 2009, when CEO/President Dan Gerson purchased the club and returned the focus to an amateur summer league featuring college players using wood bats. The previous franchise, an independent professional team known as the Blacksnakes, proved to be a flop with the fans.
Currently led by Gerson and General Manager Ky Turner, the Mustangs provide St. Joseph with affordable entertainment on summer nights, a combination that proves to be a winner at the gate. Average attendance reached a record 2,448 last year. The team normally releases official attendance numbers at the close of the season, but unofficial MINK League statistics have St. Joseph’s average crowd at slightly over 2,450 this year, according to information from the team with four games left to play.
“Our focus every year is family affordable entertainment, but our job is to make sure everyone that comes in here has a good experience,” Turner told our reporter.
We think the Mustangs have delivered on that goal for 2019, both with the on-the-field product and with a level of accessibility and fan-friendly amenities like $1 hot dogs and fireworks. It doesn’t hurt that the city of St. Joseph has maintained Phil Welch Stadium as a perfect setting to watch a game.
The team seized control of the MINK League North division late in the season, so there could be a little more baseball this year at Phil Welch. Maybe summer isn’t over quite yet.