Editor’s Note: It has been 2+ years since this news outlet last had the privilege of filing a report on the Peanuts Thursday Night Men’s D League Softball team. In a direct response to increasing readership, we are proud to, once again, have a part-time beat reporter covering Nuts softball. While we welcome your comments, suggestions, and feedback, please keep it civil. Don’t post comments that are defamatory, threatening, off-topic, or an infringement of copyright. Thank you.
(AP) Allen, TX –While Friday Nights may be synonymous with Texas high school football, Thursday nights are clearly synonymous with Men’s D League Softball. And, no team is more clearly linked to Men’s D League Softball than the Peanuts of Allen, Texas. The Peanuts enter their 12th campaign this fall, 10 of those under the careful tutelage of Team Manager, Matt Tenner.
Since we last covered the Peanuts back in 2014, the Nuts have seen their share of success. After winning back to back season championships complete with a winners’ party at Pluckers, the Peanuts were promoted this year to the top division of Rec League competition.
“The success of the Peanuts both on and off the field has been truly amazing and I don’t think any of us thought it possible [back in 2012],” said catcher, bench coach, and Peanut veteran, Mark Mason. “I imagine that most of the talk this fall from reporters will be whether or not Tenner is a viable candidate for the Hall of Fame.”
Lead-off hitter and right fielder Brady Cole, more commonly known as “The Blur” due to his speed on the basepaths, added, “the best part of winning has to be the [Pluckers’] wings. I like wings.”
Despite all the success as Manager, Tenner remains humble and maintains his perspective on winning and respecting the game. “When I got here we were pretty, how should I say it, inconsistent,” said Tenner. “I just went to work every day to make us better. While I can’t say I was truly the difference, I think the results speak for themselves.”
If there was any question as to the success of the Nuts in recent years, one needs only to ask Tenner for the spreadsheet he uses to track the team and individual statistics. It appears that Tenner’s business degree has proved useful in his ability to create Excel spreadsheets and pivot tables.
“My folks are proud,” said Tenner. “I think, finally, they see the practical application that my degree from Texas Tech can have in life.”
As the Peanuts enter Fall play, expectations are high as they compete in the more competitive, ‘top’ Rec division.
“Expectations are extremely high for the team this season,” said Tenner. “We are coming off a summer [season] where we qualified for the playoffs only to lose to the eventual champion in the semi-finals.”
The Peanuts were hampered in the playoffs last season due to work conflicts and injuries. In what seems like a common theme for the Nuts, the injuries have mounted.
A short summary of those on the DL over the past few seasons include:
- Mark Mason (C / DH); calf, hamstring, quad bruise and strained voice from resulting screams
- Rick Robinson (P); glute muscles not firing, pelvic bruise, facial lacerations requiring stitches
- Matt Tenner (OF); recurring shoulder issue
- Mark Haisler (OF); beard
- Rick Saavedra (C / OF); facial lacerations requiring stitches and plantar fasciitis
- Rusty Dubree (1B); ongoing ankle injury, sore left forefinger requiring ‘glove buddy’
- Joey Waldrip (3B); late night fatigue / lack of concentration, resulting deep chest bruise
- Ben Nelson (3B / SS); hamstring / quad issues, requiring sprints and active warm up
“We ought to be sponsored by Urgent Care,” said Saavedra. “Thank goodness Stacy and I have great health insurance.”
This year there have been a few new faces on the Peanuts’ roster. Recent call up, third baseman and shortstop, Joey Waldrip, has been a nice addition to the squad.
“Joey is a 5 tool guy before 9pm,” said Tenner. “We have to be careful how we use him in our late night games given his strict sleep schedule and altering his natural biorhythms.”
Other adds to the team that are not so recent, include all-star infielder, Paul Sebert and outfielder Chris Baker. Sebert has shown the ability to hit for power to all fields and significant range at shortstop.
“Paul has been a great addition to the squad,” said Tenner. “He is likeable and we think his upside is great.”
“Baker is an amazing athlete,” added fellow outfielder Cole. “His speed and range in the outfield allow Tenner and me to take innings off. Our best chance for success wherever the ball is hit is to yell, ‘Chris, you got it!’. And, he usually does.”
Other players seeing action over the summer were relief pitcher, Brad Dean and utility infielder, Jeff Johnston.
“Deano was awesome pitching for us in the playoffs,” said Mason. “The guy is just money. I feel for the guy as we just didn’t support him with any timely hitting.”
Johnston was one of the more consistent hitters for the Peanuts during the summer and a solid glove at second and third base. Johnston is probably best known for his intense play and an infamous collision with pitcher Rick Robinson. “Yeah, Jeff is solid,” said Robinson. “I got to experience that up close and personal, the result requiring five stitches over my right eye.”
Others to see action for the Nuts this summer included seasonal minor league call-up, outfielder Grant VanKirk. VanKirk, a member of the Nuts’ championship teams of the 2014-2015 seasons, played sparingly, but has kept his skills honed as a member of the Peanuts’ AAA affiliate in Winston-Salem, NC.
Alongside VanKirk, there was tremendous anticipation for the summer debut of other members of VanKirk’s family to include brothers Will and Heath and father, Bob. The prospect that multiple VanKirks would make the lineup this summer, however, never came to fruition as inclimate weather forced the Nuts to make adjustments. Fans can only hope that this packed lineup can find a place for them in the coming seasons.
“There is always a place for youth,” said Cole. “As long as the VanKirks want to play, there will be, at the very least, a right field position open for them.”
- #0 – Mark Haisler (OF)
- #3 – Grant VanKirk (OF/DH) – non active
- #6 – Chris Baker (OF)
- #7 – Mark Mason (C / Bench Coach)
- #9 – Brady Cole (OF)
- #10 – Rusty Dubree (1B)
- #11 – Jeff Johnston (IF) – non active
- #13 – Bruce Cramer (Utility)
- #17 – Joey Waldrip (IF)
- #18 – Paul Sebert (IF)
- #19 – Ben Nelson (IF)
- #20 – Heath VanKirk (IF) – non active
- #21 – Rick Saavedra (Utility)
- #23 – Will VanKirk (IF) – non active
- #31 – Brad Dean (P / IF)
- #33 – Matt Tenner (OF)
- #99 – Rick Robinson (P)