LAFAYETTE — Acadiana has a new team to root for — the Cane Cutters, a collegiate baseball team that will call Fabacher Field home this summer.
The team is a realization of local businessman Richard Chalmers’ passion for baseball.
Team ownership is shared by Chalmers and his wife, Sandi, David and Leslie Alwell, Russell and Karen Chalmers and Rudy Bourg.
The Acadiana Cane Cutters are part of the Texas Collegiate League, an independent league made up of four Texas teams and one other Louisiana team, the Alexandria Aces.
Wooden bats are regulation — just like in the majors.
The opportunity to extend their playing time and gain experience swinging wood is what drives the players to give their summer over to the diamond.
The players are unpaid but earn $10 per diem. Although the team pays for two meals a day, the 10 bucks doesn’t stretch when it comes to finding a place to stay.
Community members have stepped up to support the team by opening their homes to the players for the summer.
The hosting practice is common in collegiate summer travel leagues, Chalmers said.
Roger Turner of Lafayette is hosting two players. A former Louisiana Tech and college summer baseball player, he knows firsthand the advantage his new boarders have been given in the league.
“It keeps you sharp and is an opportunity to swing wooden bats,” Turner said. The experience is necessary, if they want to advance to the next level, he said.
Turner and fellow player host, Mary Pollard, whose family is hosting three players, both said they’re looking forward to the season.
“I think it’s going to be something special for Lafayette,” Pollard said. “We’re really excited.”
Chalmers’ family has strong ties to baseball. His late father, Bud, played minor league baseball and was a major supporter of Lafayette parks and recreation programs.
The Wetlands Golf Course and driving range off of North University Avenue is named the I.R. “Bud” Chalmers Memorial Park.
“I think there’s a shortage of places for kids to play and get some practice with wooden bats,” said Chalmers.
Chalmers’ day job is president of an oil and gas consulting firm, where Alwell is also a partner.
“This is my passion,” Chalmers said and pointed to the Cane Cutters out on Fabacher Field.
The team met for the first time on Memorial Day for practice time and to meet their host families.
“All in all, I think they’re a good core group of pitchers and hitters,” said Lonny Landry, the team’s head coach.
Landry leads the coaching staff with Mike Thibodeaux as assistant coach. During the school year, Thibodeaux is head coach at Teurlings Catholic and Landry is head coach at Ascension Episcopal.
Chalmers said the coaches recruited players, and there was enough interest that “we turned down three times as many kids.”
Of the team’s 26 players, 15 played for Louisiana schools in the spring.
Chalmers said he hopes the local connections help draw interest from the community.
Single ticket options range from $6 to $10 and season tickets are also available from $224 to $336.
Covered chair back seats and covered bleacher seating options are available in the park.
Some of the seating options are new and other updates have been made by both Lafayette Consolidated Government and the owners as part of its agreement for use of the park.
A five-year agreement for use of the site will be considered by the Lafayette Consolidated Council on Tuesday.
The agreement allows the baseball organization to share the park with the American Legion team from June 1 to Aug. 31 over the next five years.
According to the agreement, the owners are responsible for field maintenance and pre-game and game day maintenance of the facility.
The city has also agreed to make improvements to the facility. So far about $53,000 has been spent on chair-back seating, additional bleachers, more paved walkways, electrical upgrades, new fans and a new speaker system, said Greg Gautreaux, city-parish athletic programs maintenance manager.
Chalmers estimated that the owners’ have invested more than $150,000 in improvements to the site.
Fabacher Field welcomed its first home crowds Friday and play at home continues at 7 p.m. Monday against the Alexandria Aces.
In this first year, Chalmers’ goal is building support for the team within the community.
“I want to create excitement here and see where we can take it,” Chalmers said.
Landry has another goal: “Make it to the playoffs.”
On the Internet:
To view a full Acadiana Cane Cutters schedule or learn more about the team, visit: http://www.canecuttersbaseball.com