(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)- When Dan Gerson brought the St. Joseph Mustangs to the city, he was hoping for a successful, winning organization, but he didn't know to what extent.
"I never thought in terms of just how big of a deal we would be in the fabric of St. Joe," Gerson said.
More than 500,000 fans have come to Phil Welch Stadium during the last 10 years of St. Joseph Mustangs baseball.
"We didn't know what we were getting into, but I do know that Dan had a plan," Mustangs general manager Ky Turner said. "He always wanted to do things the right way."
St. Joe has had several Minor League and Independent league teams throughout the last several decades and after the Blacksnakes left in 2007, it left a void. Missouri Western still played, as well as high school teams, but there wasn't anything at Phil Welch Stadium during the summer. Phil Welch, a stadium that saw baseball legends such as Satchel Paige, Buck O'Neil, Stan Musial, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle all take the field.
"The first time I saw Phil Welch, I really thought it could be a really good place to watch a game," Gerson said. "It was about a two-year process before we played our first game to get everything in motion."
The Mustangs played their first game on May 28, 2009 in front of 1,700 fans.
"Not a lot of coaches get an opportunity to build a program from scratch and get it to a high level," Former manager Matt Johnson said.
A big key to the Mustangs success is their approach to the family-friendly entertainment, as well as having teams compiled of local players fans recognize.
"Disney World or Disney Land is a long drive for people to go to or an expensive trip, so my job is to kind of, you know, I want people to be able to escape, have fun," Turner said.
In the team's 10th season, it turned to one of its very first players to be their second manager in franchise history- Johnny Coy.
"I love St. Joe and I enjoy every time I'm out here at Phil Welch," Coy said. "I was super excited and I knew the fans were excited."
The Mustangs will head into their second decade in 2019 with the hopes of creating more memories for fans, players, and everyone involved with the organization.
"It was definitely something that I would never trade," Johnson said. "It was one of the greatest experiences I've ever had."
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