If you’ve ever watched a game at Phil Welch Stadium on a perfect summer night, it’s easy to forget that the St. Joseph Mustangs were never a sure thing.
The crack of the bat. The roar of the crowd. The stadium food sold at a fraction of what you’d pay at The K. College athletes playing the game the right way.
None of that was a certainty when Dan Gerson arrived on the scene after the St. Joe Blacksnakes, an independent professional team, didn’t live up to the hype. The Blacksnakes finished in last place in 2007, with the lowest attendance in its league at the time.
Maybe baseball just couldn’t make it in St. Joseph. Gerson thought otherwise but decided to pass on pro ball and instead went with a team of college amateurs playing with wood bats, just like the St. Joseph Saints summer league team that had preceded the Blacksnakes.
It’s fair to say that Gerson squared up on his dream.
Since an inaugural season in 2009, the Mustangs have proven to be a hit at the gate and in the standings of the MINK League. The team won seven league titles, including the last two in 2019 and ‘21, and consistently set records for attendance. At one game in 2014, the team drew 5,345 fans to Phil Welch Stadium.
One thing will be different when the Mustangs take the field for opening day on May 31. Gerson will no longer be at the helm. He sold the club, which does business corporately as Wood Bat Baseball Inc., to Ky Turner, the general manager of the Mustangs.
Unless you’re the Yankees, Dodgers or one of 32 NFL franchises, owning a sports team is not like having a machine that prints money. Any time there’s a change of ownership, there’s always a concern among the fan base about what this means and whether the team will cut corners or even stick around. Just look at some of the recent struggles of the Kansas City T-Bones, an independent professional team like the Blacksnakes.
But with Turner, someone whose St. Joseph and baseball roots run deep, Gerson has handed the ball to a man who should put Mustangs fans at ease. Turner is a Benton High School and University of Missouri graduate who’s been in charge of the team’s front office for seven years.
“It’s really for the community, for our city, for something for us to take pride in,” Turner told our reporter after the sale was announced.
Phil Welch Stadium might resemble the frozen tundra this week, but warmer days and nights are on the horizon. This change in ownership should give fans hope that the Mustangs’ entertaining brand of baseball will return for summers to come at Phil Welch Stadium.