By: Brady Extin
Story by Brady Extin
Two dollar Miller Light pints on Friday nights, the BP Oil refinery beyond the center field wall and Jackson Dvorak — three constants at Oil City Stadium.
Dvorak, a New Lenox, Illinois native, is currently in his third season with the Northwest Indiana Oilmen and his fourth in the Midwest Collegiate League. A four-year player in the MCL is rare, but for Dvorak there’s no place else he’d rather be.
“It’s close to home for me so it’s nice to be able to live at home and play summer ball,” he said. “And as far as the Chicagoland area goes, you’re really not going to find a summer ball setup like this anywhere else.”
After playing his first season in 2016 with the Joliet Admirals, Dvorak has since found a home in Whiting, Indiana. He gives credit to former Oilmen manager Adam Enright for making that happen.
“I really liked Adam so that was a big part of me playing here the last couple of years,” Dvorak said.
After a broken hand limited his first season with the Oilmen to just seven games, Dvorak came back ready to go in his second year with the team, batting .254, driving in 25 runs and scoring 25 runs in 2018.
After two seasons playing under Enright, Dvorak had to deal with a coaching change coming into the 2019 season, with Enright stepping down as manager. The departure of a manager who he had grown close to wasn’t enough to cause him to leave the Oilmen though. He felt just as confident about new manager Kevin Tyrrell.
“Coming into this year I heard great things about coach Kevin too, so that was a big deciding factor for me as well, and I’ve really enjoyed my time this year,” Dvorak said.
He credits the smooth transition to Enright and Tyrrell’s similar coaching styles.
“They’re really similar guys; both very laid back, which is what you want in summer ball,” Dvorak said. “Coach Kevin is always looking out for us, trying to make us better.”
The departure of Enright wasn’t the only change around the Oilmen for Dvorak as the roster saw a complete overhaul heading into the season. Dvorak entered the 2019 season as one of only three returnees to an Oilmen team that won the MCL Championship in 2018.
Now, in an unfamiliar position as one of the older players on the team, the Oilmen third baseman tries to take on a veteran role — but not in the normal sense of the word. His goal, as he puts it, is to keep things loose and fun for the rest of the team.
“We’ve been playing baseball for a while and it can get frustrating and can be long,” Dvorak said. “The biggest thing is I try to make it fun out here for these guys, because if you’re not having fun it’s not going to be a good experience.”
However, keeping the atmosphere fun around the team isn’t the only thing that Dvorak brings to the Oilmen. He’s stepped up to the plate when the team has needed him the most, recording 13 RBIs - good enough for second on the team - and a walk-off single to date.
As Dvorak’s time in the MCL comes to a close, he’s grateful for all the memories that he’s made over the past few years, most notably getting to play with his best friend, Tom Kelley in 2018. Once high school teammates at Providence Catholic, Dvorak and Kelley went separate ways in college, only to don the Oilmen uniform together for Kelley’s last season of baseball.
“Getting to play with him [Kelley] in his last summer was a ton of fun for me,'' Dvorak said.
While two dollar pints and the BP oil refinery will be staples at Oil City Stadium for years to come, the familiar, fun-loving face at third base will eventually be gone, but his mark on the Oilmen will not. With an MCL Championship and lasting memories made, players and fans around Oil City Stadium will remember Dvorak for years to come.
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