The Frontier League is entering its 25th season and has announced that local native Steve Sturgill will join the 2017 Hall of Fame Class for his part in the establishment of the league, a recognition that keeps baseball memories alive in Portsmouth.
Sturgill, who is being recognized as a Frontier League special contributor, serves as the executive director of the Community Action Organization (CAO) of Scioto County. In addition to the native, the 2017 Hall of Fame Class includes many minor and independent league players such as Chase Burch, Travis Garcia, Gator McBride and Pete Pirman.
“The Frontier League was established in 1993 by a handful of regional baseball junkies who saw an opportunity to bring professional baseball back to smaller cities in the Tri-State area,” Sturgill explained. “Portsmouth was a pivotal city for the new league and up until the time that Al Oliver and I got involved there was very little interest; however, we did get involved and by the time the first season began on the weekend of July 4, 1993, the Portsmouth Explorers took the field at Branch Rickey Park. The Explorers were one of eight teams that began the season. During the first weekend, over 6,000 fans attended three games at Branch Rickey Park, which was the largest first weekend attendance in the league. Three weeks later, two of the teams folded (West Virginia and Kentucky) due to a lack of sufficient revenue, and the remaining six teams survived the first year.”
In addition to being one of five owners of the Portsmouth Explorers franchise and the General Manager of the team, Sturgill was elected league president in 1994.
During 1994, the Frontier League expanded to two other larger cities.
“[W]e brought in owners with the financial ability to fund the teams and hired Bill Lee as the first Commissioner of the Frontier League,” Sturgill explained about the league’s history. “The 1994 season was still a challenge for the league and other franchises, including Portsmouth when the cost of operating a Frontier League and maintaining a fan base became bigger challenges.”
The Portsmouth Explorers were sold to a group from Michigan in 1995, though they remained in Portsmouth for one more year. Still, their roots here were significant and represents yet another part of the city’s rich baseball history.
“Although, most people doubted the business model of the Frontier League, I never did,” Sturgill commented. “I always thought it could work. Unfortunately, it was not able to work here, the league grew much too quickly and Bill Lee had a plan much grander than any of us could comprehend.”
Though he was only part of the league for three years, Sturgill left his mark. Lee and Sturgill are the only people to have their signatures stamped on the Frontier League baseball, a release from Frontier Professional Baseball, Inc. reported.
“I’m very proud of the Hall of Fame Class of 2017. This class represents the first 21 years of the League. All the players contributed greatly to the success of their teams. They proved to be leaders with their offensive and defensive skills,” Lee commented. “Steve Sturgill was one of the founders of the League and helped to pave the way for all the players to be become Hall of Famers.”
Sturgill says that he and his family look forward to attending the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies in Joliet, Ill.
“I am very grateful to be recognized for my small contribution to the league’s success as a member of the 2017 class of the Frontier League of Professional Baseball Hall of Fame,” he stated.
This Hall of Fame Class marks just the fourth induction class in the 25-year history of the Frontier League. Some of the Frontier League records are held by a few of these inductees. When the inductees have their named called upon, they will forever be a part of the Frontier League History.
The Frontier League Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on July 12. For more information about the event, go to http://www.jolietslammers.com/allstar/luncheon. The Frontier League, which is now a league comprised of collegiate standouts across the country, currently includes 12 teams stretching from Pennsylvania to Missouri and from Kentucky to Northern Michigan.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.