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Mustangs alumni game set Sunday

It seems like a no-brainer, but it took a few cancellations last summer before the Medford Mustangs came up with the idea of hosting an alumni game.

Even though it was a last-minute scramble, all returns were positive one year ago for the American Legion AAA program.

Now, those associated with the Mustangs are wanting to make the good-spirited gathering an annual affair. They’ll try to provide a bigger and better experience at 7 p.m. Sunday in a much-anticipated get-together at Harry & David Field in Medford.

Admission is $5 for adults and $1 for students, with Mustangs season passes also honored. All proceeds will go toward buying a new team bus.

“I know all the alumni players thought it was a blast,” said Colin Sowers, a former Mustang player and current assistant coach, “but then again they beat (the Mustangs), so that’s probably why.”

As the alumni captain, Sowers is in charge of recruiting players and has already received commitments from 15 other ex-Mustangs from several different eras. Whether it’s players from decades ago like Brent Watts or ones who were part of the state championship squad last summer like Isaiah Luzny and Christian Gillis, Sowers said the alumni squad will have plenty to counteract the current bunch.

“We have like 15 to 18 guys right now who have contacted me and honestly I expect more people than that to show up without any heads up,” said Sowers. “If they played for the Mustangs, we want as many guys as possible. Even if we had to, we could make a second game that was alumni versus alumni. We just want to make this an annual thing that’s a big deal for all the Mustangs.”

Sowers said he wasn’t able to be part of last year’s game but is looking forward to getting together with players from his time with the Mustangs as well as those he grew up idolizing.

“I grew up watching the Mustangs play,” he said. “Guys like Brett Timmerman and Rob Folsom, who are going to be there Sunday, are guys I wanted to be like when I was watching them play at Miles Field. When I got my first chance to be a Mustang, even just being on the team was like, ‘Wow, this is really cool.’ To be able to meet all these guys who maybe don’t go to the high school you do but are really good players and fun to be around, those are some of the best times I’ve had playing baseball.”

Nate Mayben is all for the alumni game, although he is somewhat caught on both sides of the fence as the current Mustangs manager to go with his status as a three-year player (1997-99).

“It just gives guys a chance to get back together that maybe haven’t seen each other for a little while and talk about memories and good times playing for the Mustangs,” said Mayben. “I think we had guys like Jordan Lewis and Mike Allen out there pitching and Brent Watts on the other side hitting with Rob Folsom, those are some pretty good players to deal with.”

Alumni players interested in taking part can contact Sowers at 541-301-4568.

As part of Sunday’s festivities, the Mustangs will also be honoring the 1997 and 2009 teams that were World Series runners-up, among other plans, and will have a team merchandise shop open that includes “Alumni Game 2015” T-shirts.

Equally important is a fundraising drive to replace the team’s 1993 bus that has served the squad well over the years. The team is seeking $100 donations on site. Those unable to attend can also set up a donation through Mayben at 541-941-4196.

“We’re trying to improve our travel situation, for sure,” said Mayben. “The bus we’ve had has been around a long time and put on some big miles and some wear and tear and it’s probably time to move on.”

Don Schneider, general manager of the Mustangs since 1989, said Boise Cascade Corporation and Dick Rudisile, in particular, were instrumental in purchasing the team’s current bus in 1999 and taking care of its maintenance in the early stages.

More recently, local umpire and mechanic Rick Landis has played a huge role in keeping the Mustangs’ bus in running order as it has routinely made treks to Reno, Nev., as well as throughout Oregon and to various Pacific Northwest Regional sites.

“It’s a nice bus but it’s old,” said Schneider. “It’s running well but it’s a 1993, so it’s about time to get a new one.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry