Royal Oak Leprechauns feel lucky about playing in Memorial Park

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published April 9, 2019

 Chris Faust, a graduate of Brother Rice High School and a student at Grand Valley State University, swings at a pitch during an Irish Hills Leprechauns  baseball game. The  team will now be known as the Royal Oak Leprechauns and will play home games  at Memorial Park in Royal Oak next year.

Chris Faust, a graduate of Brother Rice High School and a student at Grand Valley State University, swings at a pitch during an Irish Hills Leprechauns baseball game. The team will now be known as the Royal Oak Leprechauns and will play home games at Memorial Park in Royal Oak next year.

Photo provided by Mark Sackett

 Mitch Shedlowsky, a Waterford  native and a student at Albion  College, pitches for the Irish Hills  Leprechauns, a summer collegiate amateur baseball team that will now be known as the Royal Oak Leprechauns.

Mitch Shedlowsky, a Waterford native and a student at Albion College, pitches for the Irish Hills Leprechauns, a summer collegiate amateur baseball team that will now be known as the Royal Oak Leprechauns.

Photo provided by Mark Sackett

ROYAL OAK — An amateur collegiate summer baseball team is looking to strike gold.

Formerly known as the Irish Hills Leprechauns and based in Adrian, the team recently received the go-ahead from the city of Royal Oak to renovate field No. 3 at Memorial Park for its home games.

The team will now be known as the Royal Oak Leprechauns.

The proposed improvements include installing a synthetic infield turf for $281,693, adding bullpens for both home and away teams for $15,572, placing temporary fencing in right field for $20,470, and extending the dugout size to accommodate a 25-man roster for $16,000, for a total of approximately $333,735.

Royal Oak Superintendent of Recreation John Federe said the city would still have control over the scheduling of the fields and that the Royal Oak Leprechauns would coordinate with the city and the Royal Oak Sandlot League for the scheduling of its 21-game home season in June and July 2020.

“The Leprechauns will still be expected to pay the rental for use according to the guidelines set up by the Parks and Recreation Department and the Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Advisory Board,” Federe said. “(The team) will also utilize their collegiate players and coaches to run youth camps and prospect camps at Memorial Park.”

He added that the synthetic turf would add to a longer playing season, a reduction in rainouts and more opportunities for activity from different groups, including high school and senior baseball programs.

“I anticipate an increase in growth in our youth baseball, and also an increase in our community engagement within the city of Royal Oak,” Federe said.

Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League Commissioner Deron Brown explained that the league has been around since 1987 and consists of 12 teams throughout Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and one in Ontario, Canada.

“We bring players from all over the country to come in and play,” Brown said. “We mix them with local players, and our whole goal is to develop players, give them the chance to go to the next level and improve their game.”

Mark Sackett, chair of the Michigan Red Sox Inc. and president of the Royal Oak Leprechauns, said he is looking to fund the endeavor through contacts made through the organization and through corporate sponsorships.

“We will completely fund everything. That’s our goal,” he said. “We are heavily seeking out corporate sponsorship to build our field and make this thing happen.”

He said the organization originally began in Birmingham, then expanded in 2005 to become a nonprofit organization and included players from all over Oakland County. In 2015, he said, the team signed with the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League and moved to Siena Heights University.

“It was the Irish Hills area, so we called the team the Irish Hills Leprechauns. We competed 2016, 2017 and 2018,” Sackett said. “We never could get the interest of the community really, and the support of the businesses, so that’s why we started looking into moving back into Oakland County.”

Returning to Memorial Park is meaningful to Sackett, as Birmingham Seaholm High School clinched the district championship at the park in 1988 under his and his father’s leadership. The team went on to win the state championship, and Sackett attributed that success to his career in education and coaching.

He is an elementary school teacher in the Troy School District.

“It’s wood bat, nine-inning games, just like a minor league baseball program in a sense,” Sackett said. “It’s all about family fun.”

Some of the family appeal, he said, includes throwing T-shirts into the stands, bringing in food trucks, giving fans the chance to win things and encouraging crowd participation. He said that the admission price for games is $5, and admission is free for seniors and children  12 and younger.

“Thanks for bringing this to us,” City Commissioner Kyle DuBuc said at the commission’s March 25 meeting. “I’m excited to have another family-friendly option on weekends. I think it’s going to be an awesome partnership, great for the community, and you’ll have great success here.”

Commissioner Patricia Paruch called the proposal, “The most exciting thing that we’ve seen in quite some time.”

Mayor Pro Tem Sharlan Douglas said the fact that the Royal Oak Leprechauns chose to relocate to Memorial Park speaks volumes.

“This is just one more example of why people love Royal Oak and why it’s such a great city, when an organization like yours draws a finger around the map and says Royal Oak is the best place for us to be,” Douglas said. “Thank you for the vote of confidence in our city.”

Memorial Park is located at 31050 Woodward Ave., north of 13 Mile Road.

For more information, call (248) 930-0388 or email leprechaunball@gmail.com.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.