Trying something new

Martinsville Mustangs prepare for busy summer season

Ruthanne Duffy and Connor Akeman are working to prepare for the opening of the Mustang season this month.

By Latala Hodges

In her first summer as general manager for the Martinsville Mustangs, Ruthanne Duffy is open to all types of possibilities for the season.
“We’ve constantly been on the phone and sending emails to people to find out if they’re interested in doing things,” she said. “We’re constantly bouncing ideas off one another to see if something would be fun, setting up meetings with potential sponsors and seeing who might be interested in coming out. We’re answering questions on our Facebook page and trying to sell our tickets. It’s a 24/7 brainstorm right now.”
Duffy said she convinced Connor Akeman, director of media relations and broadcasting, to come up from Florida — in the middle of February. She said they’re doing things a little differently this year and wanted to get a head start on the season.
“We’re trying to make it as fun as possible during the games so we can make this a family environment,” Duffy said. “We know it’s tough for young children to sit down and watch a baseball game for two or three hours. We want the kids to come here and be entertained just as much as the parents are.”
This means bouncy houses, fun characters at the field, delicious food vendors like Kona Ice of Rockingham and much more.
The Martinsville Mustangs are going into their 15th season at Hooker Field which, according to Duffy, “makes our community special. Having a ballpark here gives the city of Martinsville and its surrounding communities of Henry, Franklin, Pittsylvania and Patrick counties a unique opportunity to come and watch some very competitive baseball. There aren’t many opportunities to be able to see these guys before they move up in their careers. We’ve had many guys who played in Martinsville that have gone on to play major league baseball. I couldn’t imagine baseball not being a part of this community.”
Players come from all over the country from colleges, universities and other leagues to join the 32-player roster. The Mustangs just announced a foursome from Newberry College in South Carolina that will play this summer, including junior infielder Colin Allman, junior catcher Kenny Bergmann, sophomore infielder Dalton Lansdowne and junior righty Tomas Sorcia, Jr.
It’s her first season as GM, but Duffy and Mustangs baseball go way back. She served as the team’s assistant general manager during the 2018 season, helping with operations, sales and community relations. Her husband, Matt, played two seasons with the Mustangs and spent three summers as head coach in Martinsville. However, Duffy said being the first female full-time general manager means a little more.
“Being a female in this position is so rewarding — I still don’t think that happens very often,” she said. “It’s interesting to introduce myself as general manager of a summer league baseball team. Many people are like, ‘it’s you?’ But I think the Coastal Plain League is very forward-thinking and helping females in sports become the norm. I’m very fortunate just to be part of sports in general. We love the atmosphere and love to see kids running up to the players. It’s wonderful just being able to provide that to the community.”
It’s a big job for Duffy and her team, but the community can help out, too. She said host families, located within 30 minutes of Hooker Field, still are needed for the season. Requirements are that players need a place to sleep, shower and do their laundry. Players are provided food post-game, but Duffy said many host families go above and beyond for these young players.
Community members also are encouraged to introduce themselves and talk to players at the games. Duffy said players are even more encouraged when community members express their happiness at having them at Hooker Field throughout the summer. Local businesses and industries can sign up for sponsorships or bring their employees out to the field for this season’s 24 home games.
“This is not only a form of entertainment for those who love baseball,” Duffy said, “but we hope to make it a place where people just want to come socialize and hang out. It’s great if you choose to like baseball after, but we want visitors to create those lasting relationships with the players. These guys are really accessible and love signing autographs. Seeing those relationships grow is really special.”
Duffy, 31, coaches volleyball at Ferrum College. She graduated from the University of Virginia at Wise and previously worked as a career coach at Patrick Henry Community College. Originally from Craig County, Duffy and her husband reside in Bassett with their son, Eli.


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