05/15/2014 1:15 PM -
A new energy was brought to the City of Whiting on Feb. 28, 2012, when the Northwest Indiana Oilmen baseball team was officially born.
The club held a press conference at Whiting City Hall as owner Don Popravak, former White Sox star and co-owner Ron Kittle and Mayor Joe Stahura announced that the Oilmen would join the Midwest Collegiate League and play their home games at Oil City Stadium, a beautiful 1,100-seat venue in downtown Whiting.
“We came up with a club name that exemplified the essence of both the community and the region as well as the hard-working people of this area over the last century,” Popravak said at the press conference.
Since then, the Oilmen have done just that, finding tremendous success in each of their first two seasons and providing Northwest Indiana baseball fans with a great product on the field.
The Oilmen wasted no time in hoisting their first trophy, winning the Midwest Collegiate League in their inaugural 2012 season by sweeping through the MCL postseason with four straight wins over DuPage and DeKalb. The Oilmen clinched the title with a 6-2 victory over DeKalb on August 5, 2012. A year later, the Oilmen returned to the MCL Championship Series and finished as the league runner-up.
Midwest Collegiate League rosters are comprised of college-level baseball players, who compete in the league during the summer months while school is out of session. Since day one, the Oilmen organization has made a commitment to representing Northwest Indiana. The team gives fans a chance to see many local high school products that have gone on to find success in the college ranks. Each season, the Oilmen roster has featured a combination of local and non-local players.
Manager Justin Huisman has been at the helm for every game the team has played, guiding NWI to an all-time record of 62-32 through the end of the 2012 season. The Oilmen have been very difficult to beat at Oil City Stadium, recording a 41-16 mark at home through two seasons. Huisman had a successful professional baseball career in the Rockies, Royals, Mariners and Astros organizations that included a stint in the big leagues with Kansas City in 2004.
Each summer, there is one unique day where fans at Oil City Stadium may find themselves rooting against their beloved Oilmen. The United States Military All-Star team came to Northwest Indiana on July 1, 2012 and exactly a year later on July 1, 2013. In both cases, a capacity crowd was on-hand for a moving pregame ceremony to honor America’s heroes, followed by the game between the Oilmen and U.S. Military team.
During the summer of 2013, the league’s brightest stars made their way to Whiting for the annual Midwest Collegiate League All-Star Game. Scouts from the White Sox, Phillies, Yankees and Rangers looked on as the South (Oilmen, South Vikings and Lexington Snipes) bested the North (Rockford Foresters, Chicago Zephyrs and DuPage County Hounds) 12-4. Ten different Oilmen saw action in the game.
The list of colleges whose players have worn an Oilman uniform include Purdue, Butler, Notre Dame, Akron, Cincinnati, Indiana, Northern Illinois, Ball State, Michigan State, Central Michigan, Illinois, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Western Kentucky, Toledo, Valparaiso and the University of Illinois-Chicago, among others.
With a winning tradition already established through the team’s first two seasons, expectations, excitement and energy are at an all-time high as the Oilmen compete in the 2014 campaign.