By Callie Hietala
Next Plan Athletics (NPA) has taken over management of the Martinsville Mustangs and is swinging for the fences with plans to engage the community at the team’s Hooker Field.
At its August 24 meeting, Martinsville’s city council voted 4-1 to award NPA the management contract for the city’s baseball team. The newly formed LLC is comprised of Jason Davis, the company’s president; his wife Tonya Davis, the director of marketing; Joe Haynes, the director of baseball operations, and his wife April Haynes, vice president of the company.
Though none of the four have any experience managing a baseball team, they are supported by an advisory board which, according to Jason Davis, includes one former professional baseball player. The management team also has a long history in baseball. Both Jason Davis and Joe Haynes played baseball themselves, and the eldest sons of each couple have played baseball for years. The couples have also served as host families for previous Mustangs team members.
The company will also rely on the expertise of their head coach, Brandon Nania, an assistant coach for Patrick & Henry Community College (P&HCC). Nania stepped in as the Mustangs’ head coach last season after serving as an assistant coach in 2020. Davis told members of city council that Nania has a unique and aggressive recruiting style, which will benefit the team.
Managing the Mustangs is “not about the day-to-day operations of managing 35 players,” said Davis. “That’s the coach’s job and his staff. That’s what he’s paid to do. That’s his job to recruit.”
Rather, NPA’s job is to make sure the coach has what he needs to do his job well, to make sure the facility is high-quality, and to make sure the whole effort has support and backing within the community.
“We as a group felt very strongly about making the Hooker baseball experience that is near and dear to our hearts, something better and something open to the community,” Davis told the council. The group wants to “reinvest profits into the infrastructure of the field. We want to start right away with a new batting cage, a new bullpen. We want to provide quality concessions, and not just hamburgers and hot dogs.”
In a recent interview, Davis said “we are true baseball people. It’s important to us that the baseball community in Martinsville come together as one baseball community.”
And community is at the forefront of the mission of Next Plan Athletics.
“One of the big things we say is we lay our heads here at night,” Joe Haynes said, indicating that both couples live in the community and want to reinvest in the area.
“We want to make sure that the money stays local,” he said. “We’re not making a dime off of this team to go back into our pockets. Everything we do, we’re going to put back into the team or into the field.”
And they company has plans to do a lot, namely opening the field up more to the community. While details aren’t yet available, birthday parties, movie screenings, and concerts are all part of the discussion.
The NPA has already formed a high school league, which is playing through October 7.
“It’s basically a league for baseball players that play at the high school level that may not necessarily play fall ball. But it also gives them an opportunity to play with the older players that are playing baseball year-round,” said Haynes.
There will be nights that all profits from ticket sales will go back to the high schools. “We want to make sure that Next Plan Athletics is doing something to give back to these local high schools,” said Haynes. “That’s all that we’ve talked about, is how can we run our business to where we’re giving back.”
Even though both the team and Hooker Field are owned by the City of Martinsville, Davis does not anticipate that the city’s reversion will affect the Mustangs.
“As far as we know, nothing would change as far as the ownership,” Davis said. No information has been passed along from the city as to the fate of the Mustangs upon reversion, but neither Davis nor Haynes foresee any major impact on the team.
For now, they are simply moving forward with the day-to-day basics of baseball management, from smaller discussions about new uniforms and what to sell at the concession stand to grander dreams about future movies on the field and concerts in front of a stadium full of fans.
“The baseball field is just another door to the community,” said Davis, “and when you have a door to the community, it has to be a big door.”
Next Plan Athletics wants to create a door that people can walk through and be awed. The group wants to create a door that people will walk through again and again as it swings for the fences.