Royal Oak Leprechauns begin first season with full house

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published June 21, 2021

 Andrew Delaney, a freshman at Western Kentucky University and native of Louisville, Kentucky, smashes a hit during the Royal Oak Leprechauns’ home opener at Memorial Park June 5.

Andrew Delaney, a freshman at Western Kentucky University and native of Louisville, Kentucky, smashes a hit during the Royal Oak Leprechauns’ home opener at Memorial Park June 5.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Owen Sackett, a 16-month-old of Fremont, Michigan, watches the Royal Oak Leprechauns game in the arms of his dad, Jay Sackett, June 5. Linda Sackett, Owen’s grandma and wife of Royal Oak Leprechauns President Mark Sackett, sits next to them.

Owen Sackett, a 16-month-old of Fremont, Michigan, watches the Royal Oak Leprechauns game in the arms of his dad, Jay Sackett, June 5. Linda Sackett, Owen’s grandma and wife of Royal Oak Leprechauns President Mark Sackett, sits next to them.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 The home opener for the Royal Oak Leprechauns sold out and attracted an estimated 800-900 spectators at Memorial Park June 5.

The home opener for the Royal Oak Leprechauns sold out and attracted an estimated 800-900 spectators at Memorial Park June 5.

Photo by Deb Jacques

ROYAL OAK — Royal Oak Leprechauns President Mark Sackett was pleasantly surprised when the summer collegiate baseball team’s home opener sold out at Memorial Park June 5.

The endeavor, which included an extensive renovation of field No. 3 at the park for home games, has come a long way since Sackett first pitched the proposal at a Royal Oak City Commission meeting March 25, 2019.

“We were hoping for 200 or 300 and we had about 800 or 900 (people at the home opener),” Sackett said. “It’s been a complete whirlwind since we received funding for everything.”

From the get-go, Sackett promised the city, which gave its blessing to use the park and entered into a 10-year contract with the Leprechauns in September 2019, that the team would finance the project.

A surprise $350,000 loan from New York Yankees second baseman and Birmingham resident DJ LeMahieu set the ball in motion, attracting more corporate sponsorships and financial assistance from the community.

“I heard about this and saw (Mark Sackett’s) passion and I got super excited and wanted to be part of it as well. … I’m excited for the community. It’s going to be a really cool atmosphere,” LeMahieu said in a prepared statement. “You’ve got the (Royal Oak Sandlot League) here and for them to see a collegiate team will inspire them. There’s nothing like collegiate baseball.”

The enhancements include the excavation of the field, new synthetic turf, fencing, bleachers with seatbacks, new dugouts, and a renovated press box. The team also purchased a new scoreboard. As of press time, their record was 5-6.

“The guys are still figuring things out. The coaches aren’t used to the players, but this will happen every summer,” Sackett said. “These guys come from all over.”

The 21-game season features home and away games with other teams in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League. The league has been around since 1987 and consists of 12 teams throughout Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Canada.

“We bring players from all over the country to come in and play,” Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League Commissioner Deron Brown said in a prior interview. “We mix them with local players, and our whole goal is to develop players, give them the chance to go on to the next level and improve their game.”

Sackett said a couple of scouts have already been to a couple of games to evaluate players, including one from the Texas Rangers who lives in the area.

Another large part of Sackett’s mission is to create interactive family fun, with T-shirt throws and other giveaways, food trucks, and the opportunity to create partnerships with local youth baseball groups.

Royal Oak Superintendent of Recreation John Federe said the city would still have control over the scheduling of the fields.

“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 in a prior interview. “(The team) will also utilize their collegiate players and coaches to run youth camps and prospect camps at Memorial Park.”

The new synthetic turf, he added, will lengthen the playing season, reduce the number of rainouts, and provide more opportunities for different groups, including high school and senior baseball programs.

Sackett said the games are nine innings long and use wooden bats, similar to minor league baseball; however, unlike minor league baseball, the players pay to be on the team.

The team has a need for host families for the players and interns to work home games.

The cost for tickets is $5, and admission is free for children 12 and younger, as well as adults 65 and older.

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

For more information, visit roleprechauns.pointstreaksites.com, email mark@leprechaunball.com or call (248) 930-0388.