Pump Jacks feature homegrown talent
June 26, 2013 at 11 p.m.
Each summer as the Pump Jacks season gets under way, players and coaches from every corner of the country descend on Kilgore, Driller Park and the East Texas heat, many for the first time.
But, as in seasons past, the Texas Collegiate League summer baseball team has also tapped the hotbed of baseball talent in East Texas.
Kilgore's Matthew Dickey and Riley Toler, New Diana's Jordan Price and Pine Tree standout Garrett McMullen are 2013's homegrown additions to the Pump Jacks.
All agree that it's nice to be close to home for summer, but for Price, who will begin his senior season at LeTourneau next spring, playing for the Pump Jacks is something that he's always had on his mind.
"It's been amazing so far," Price said. "I always went and watched the Pump Jacks play, and to be a part of the experience on the other side has been one of the best baseball experiences I've had."
For Dickey and Toler, this summer marks a return to the field they defended in their high school careers.
"It's been good to play again at Driller, my high school field, and it's great to be back in Kilgore," Toler said. "Every night we have a lot of fans come out. It's always a great environment."
"It's nice to be at home and be around fans and people that I know," Dickey added.
McMullen, a Pine Tree graduate and a Stephen F. Austin-bound sophomore, also grew up playing at Driller and recently hit his first home run at the 67-year-old park.
"That was my first one," McMullen said. "When I hit it, I knew I got it good. It felt good off the bat. It felt good to hit one.
"We hit six that day, so it was impressive. People were saying they've never seen that many there."
Being from the area, the four know what's involved with playing baseball in the Texas summer, something that the rest of the team is still adjusting to.
"Most of the guys just can't believe how hot it is," Toler said. "It's a lot different here than California."
Price said it's just not the heat.
"They all say it's not how hot it is, it's how humid it is and they're not used to it at all," he said. "The humidity is what's getting them."
Despite the heat, the players from near and far have begun to put it all together on the field, having won five of their last six games, heading into Wednesday's contest.
"We had a couple players come in a little late who have done a great job for us," Dickey said. "I think we're building team chemistry, and things are starting to fall into place."
Toler a sophomore at Tyler Junior College, echoed Dickey's thoughts on the team.
"We didn't have all the guys at first and pitchers were having to throw a lot," he said. "But now that we have the full roster, the pieces are starting to fall into place."
For Price, the summer is about learning from a team and coaching staff that ranges all divisions of college baseball and taking it back to LeTourneau for his final year.
"Being around this high level of baseball and the coaching staff, I hope to take a lot of these leadership qualities and roles back to my school and build off that to make my team better," he said. "Being around all these Division I players, they have a whole new outlook on the game, I've never been around a team that has as much love for the game and as much passion as these guys and hopefully I can take that back to LeTourneau."
(Follow Hayden Henry on Twitter: @hayden_h)