Field of Dreams

by Oct 19, 2023South Brunswick, Sports

With the Brunswick Surfin’ Turfs playing home games at Brunswick Community College’s Founders Field, Alec, Lexie and Reggie Allred have reached their goal of managing a summer collegiate baseball team.

It’s a perfect late-spring day for baseball at Brunswick Community College’s Founders Field, even as afternoon warmth turns into evening chill. Daylight declines to its fringes, threatening to bring the game to a halt with the score tied.

The players certainly don’t want that, perhaps recalling the old sports cliche that “a tie is like kissing your sister.” For three hours, momentum has seesawed between the visiting Sandhills Bogeys from Pinehurst and the home Brunswick Surfin’ Turfs in a match between aspiring college ballplayers in The Old North State League.

The setting feels like a timeless moment carved right out of Field of Dreams as baseball fans, lovers and lifers gather. And it is a place that is a big part of a Southport couple’s dream to provide a great experience for college players and maybe make the county a hotbed for summer collegiate baseball.

So far, Alec and Lexie Allred’s dreams appear on track.

Baseball Surfin' Turfs Brunswick NC

The Bogeys, who won the league championship in 2022, get three hits and a walk in the first inning. They load the bases with one out but it yields only one run. Will this missed opportunity bring regret later?

After a rocky start, “Fredo” Wooten, the Turfs’ starting pitcher, a wiry sophomore from Southeastern Community College in Whiteville, settles down. The Bogeys barely touch him for five scoreless innings. In the meantime, the Turfs go hitless for three innings, but they rally for five runs in the fifth inning thanks to four sharp hits.

Then things fall apart for the Turfs. In the seventh, relief pitchers can’t find the plate, and another baseball cliche – “walks will kill you” – comes true. The Bogeys score four runs thanks to four walks, a hit batsman and only one hit. It’s a tie at 5-5.

In the bottom of the eighth, the intensity change is palpable – and vocal. At one point, the umpire warns the Bogeys’ bench to stop heckling. The Turfs put runners on first and second with one out. The Bogeys change pitchers, and a walk loads the bases, but the Turfs fail to score.

Surfn' Turfs Mascot

Then, in the top of the ninth, the Bogeys convert a walk, a throwing error and a two-out double into the eventual winning run. The Turfs put runners on first and third in the bottom of the ninth with one out, but two flyouts end the game. Bogeys 6, Turfs 5.

“We’ll be okay,” says Steve Prokop, a lifelong baseball guy who is also one of the team’s most dedicated supporters, a sponsor and the public address announcer. “This is the time of year when you find out what you’ve got.”

Prokop and the Allreds say they are optimistic that this group can go places. And that will turn out to be true. At season’s end in late July, the Turfs win their division and advance to the second round of the Old North State League championship round, losing in a 15-inning thriller.

The team has a 10-year agreement to use Founders Field and is part of a league that has 15 teams across North Carolina giving collegiate ballplayers two months of summer baseball while living with host families and improving their game.

Brunswick Baseball Surfin' Turfs

Alec Allred played professionally in the Atlantic League. He was a utility player, a handy cog who could fill many holes, but he realized he didn’t have the right stuff to join the tiny percentage of players who make the major leagues. Three wrist surgeries did not help, he adds, rolling his hand over to show the scars on his wrist.

“I played with some who had been in the Majors and you know, you look at them and go, ‘What am I even doing here?’” he says.

So he channeled his efforts into the off-the-field part of the game he loves.

The league itself is now owned and operated by a larger umbrella organization, the Players League, sort of a league of leagues for collegiate baseball players in seasons that run from late May through July.

It is a long way from the conversation between Alec Allred and his dad, Reggie Allred, during a 2018 car ride from Michigan that led to the creation of the league. Alec is CEO of the new league, while Reggie serves as chief operating officer.

“The whole concept is to be player focused,” Alec says.

“Not all leagues are.”

Lexi Manager of Surfin' Turfs

Meanwhile, Lexie Allred is general manager of the Surfin’ Turfs, making some history herself as a female executive in the traditionally male-dominated world of baseball.
When she looks at Founders Field, she sees what it could become.

For the 2023 season, the team changed home fields and stepped up promotion. The Turfs are providing site upgrades with exterior fencing and a beer garden. Next up are a press box, concession stand and bathrooms. They’re exploring possible fundraising strategies to put lights on the field, which would allow both BCC and the Turfs to play at better times to attract fans and could lead to Founders Field as a site for regional tournaments.

Being general manager of such a team means you do a little bit of everything, Lexie notes. Sometimes that includes ordering postgame pizzas and handing out uniforms, with returnees from last season getting first dibs on numbers.

“It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of work,” she says, but it’s obviously a lot easier when you’re doing something you love. For the Allreds, that’s baseball.

Learn more about the Surfin’ Turfs:
Visit https://www.oldnorthstateleague.com/brunswick-surfin-turfs or find the Turfs on Facebook @brunswickonsl

Photography by Tara Roberts