YOUR SUMMER BASEBALL TEAM: The Acadiana Cane Cutters
Jul 06, 2018 01:31PM
“So the truth is my goal wasn’t necessarily amateur summer league collegiate wooden bat baseball.”
Well, if that’s the case, how did the Acadiana Cane Cutters every come to be? What was the genesis of what’s become an eight-year reality? “I truly love minor league baseball,” begins Richard Chalmers, President of the Acadiana Cane Cutters baseball Team. “I love the environment, I love the kids who are playing, a lot of determination to get to their dreams, and then following their dreams. I love that.”
And with his supportive and “involved more than she’d like to be” wife, Sandi, Chalmers and the Acadiana Cane Cutters have been the primary Spring-thru-Summer inhabitants of Lafayette’s Fabacher Field for nearly a decade. “We have 30 kids on the roster, and with pitching changes during the course of a summer, we’ll get up to about 40 players,” explains Chalmers.
The Cane Cutters play a 56-game season---28 at home, 28 on the road—and the team receives over 300 inquiries from players and colleges all across the country. “The ideal Cane Cutter is, of course, someone who is a pretty good baseball player, a young man who is passionate about baseball,” says Chalmers. “But also, as best we can, we want kids who have stayed out of trouble and who are going to represent their school, their parents, and our team in a good way. We only have them for about two-and-a-half months, and half of that is on the road with two coaches traveling with them.”
The players come from schools all over the nation, although the 2018 roster—with the primary home colleges being Southern Mississippi, Lamar, Texas A&M and, fittingly, UL-Lafayette—has a more regional flavor. “One year, we had two pitchers and a starting first baseman from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish,” adds Chalmers. “And we not only give them a place to hone their baseball skills, but we also give them a dose of the Acadiana culture, introducing some to crawfish and alligator and things like that. Some of that can be really fun to see.”
Chalmers wouldn’t have a team, however, without his host families, Lafayette residents who provide lodging to about two-thirds of his players. “We absolutely could not do them. Some of these families are empty nesters, while some might have young children who suddenly have temporary big brothers. It’s just amazing to see the life-long relationships that are developing, too; the families will follow these players as their careers and lives develop, they’ll attend the players’ weddings and just get closer over the years.”
It can be an expensive venture. “Am I making any money on this? ‘No’ is the quick, dirty answer. Eight years into it, that doesn’t sound like a very good business decision, does it?” chuckles Chalmers. So where’s the justification? I mean, why spend the money? “But when you deal with these kids, there’s a pretty good return on that. You’re helping a lot of kids make some career movements.” And when the discussion turns back to finances? “My goal is to one day break even.”
Chalmers believes the key to growing the brand is to bring in more groups, i.e. companies, clubs, schools and families. “We’re certainly very family-friendly; we’ve got fun jumps, on-the-field promotions and plenty of music.” The challenge, however, has been getting residents to give the Cane Cutters a try. “Attendance hasn’t been what we’d like it to be as Lafayette seems to have a large group that heads to the beach every summer; but we find that if we can get them to come, they pretty much have a real good time.”
The quality of play is high; after all, these are college athletes who have already proven they have a skill or two and know their way around the diamond. “Each year about six or seven of our guys are drafted, and that makes me pretty proud of what we’re doing here.”
Pride. Passion. Talking to Richard Chalmers about his baseball venture, about this extension of summers spent checking out minor league ballparks in the northeastern U.S. with his dad, well… you get a true sense as to why he does this.
“You know, in a lot of ways, I feel like a proud father,” Chalmers smiles. “To watch these kids come out here and chase their dreams? That is fun to see.”
“They get to give it a shot, you know?”
For more information on the Acadiana Cane Cutters—the players, schedule and some really cool promotional events—visit http://canecuttersbaseball.com.
Photos courtesy of Acadiana Cane Cutters