This is the first season for the East Texas Pump Jacks, but the names and faces are pretty familiar. This Texas Collegiate League franchise is more than just another minor league team, it's a way for East Texas's best college players to come home for the summer and play for their friends and families.
"Being away for so long," said Carthage native Garrett Smith, "being at a school where you've been away for six months at a time, it's good to be closer to home so they don't have to drive three or four hours to come watch my games."
Bullard's Chad Sherman agrees.
"I went to Virginia last summer, and I didn't get to see my family, they didn't get to watch me play."
These players are all on college rosters for next year, from jucos all the way to the Big 12, and would be spending their summers somewhere on the diamond. They're glad to have a chance to come home.
"It was definitely a big thing," White Oak native and Panola College pitcher Scott Copeland said. "The family was very happy with my decision, they'll get to see me more than last year, when I went to the Valley league."
"It's nice to be close to home for a summer," Carthage's Khris Tate said. "It's a cool place to play, it's just a plus that it's close to home."
"I think it's pretty exciting to bring something back to East Texas," Pump Jacks manager and New Boston native Stan Phelps said. "They go off and play college ball, and a lot of people don't get to follow them. Now they get to come back home for the summer, and show off their talent."
So most of the Pump Jacks will be doing like most college kids, crashing at home, eating some home cooking, and saving a little money.
"Last summer, being so far away I had to live on my own. This summer, I can save gas money for sure."
The Pump jacks open their home season Thursday night at Driller Park against McKinney.