Every summer, the Martinsville Mustangs bring in players from across the country. The 2020 team has a roster that includes players from Arkansas, Ohio, and South Carolina.
But local fans will also see three familiar faces in Mustangs uniforms this summer.
Bassett and Patrick Henry Community College graduate Christian Easley will wear No. 4 for the Mustangs this summer, patrolling the same outfield where he played in college. Easley will be joined by right-handed pitcher Will Davis, a Tunstall graduate who just finished his sophomore season at Ferrum College. Davis will wear No. 24 this summer.
The local duo will be joined in the Mustangs' dugout by former PHCC standout Brandon Nania, who will serve as an assistant coach after also helping coach the Patriots this spring.
Nania was asked by new Mustangs president Greg Suire to join this team this summer.
“Playing here and seeing the Mustangs get to come in right after we’re done playing, I always wanted to come here and coach and give back to this community and bring them a baseball club that’s going to go out there and win and show them that we’re here, we’re here to stay,” Nania said.
Both Easley and Davis had their college seasons cut short and saw the start of summer ball pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic. Easley worked out in Martinsville with other local standouts. Davis was able to work out with friends this spring, and said he felt like he got the work in he needed to stay in shape.
Nothing was as special, though, as getting back on the field with a team.
“It feels really good to be back,” Davis said. “It’s been so long since we’ve been on the baseball field so it feels really nice to be back and get to work and be able to get back into it.”
“It’s really refreshing,” Easley said. “Actually seeing more than 10 people in the area at one time, just all being able to have fun for the little bit of time that we’ve got. I can’t wait for it to all come back together.”
In Thursday’s exhibition game, Easley led off, going 1-2 with a stolen base and a walk. In Friday’s exhibition he was 1-2 with an RBI off the bench, coming away with a walk-off single to help the team to a 4-3 win.
Also in Friday’s game, Davis threw 2.2 innings in relief and had five strikeouts while allowing just one hit.
Results of Saturday’s exhibition were too late for publication.
Easley played a couple of games at the end of the season for the Mustangs last summer. He’ll be transferring to the University of Maryland-Baltimore County to play baseball in the fall, so this summer may be his last chance to play in front of his home crowd.
“It’s just hometown, being able to play in front of your friends and family. It’s nothing like playing in your hometown honestly,” he said. “I’m just going to try to soak it in as much as I can.”
Davis had been to one Mustangs game when he was in high school, but he’s played at Hooker Field many times while with the Trojans. His coach at Ferrum had mentioned the possibility of playing with Martinsville last summer, and again this season. Having his season with the Panthers cut short made playing this summer a “pretty easy choice” for him.
Getting to play just a half-hour from home and play against some of the best college baseball players in the country also swayed his decision.
“I could stay at home and I could play in such a good league, that made a big difference,” he said. “We have three guys from Arkansas that are big DI and we have other DIs and DIIs and stuff like that, and I feel like me being a Division III player, if I can compete with them then I feel like I’ll be ready to get back to school and compete there.”
Neither player knew any of their teammates this summer prior to the first practice, but they were ready to get back in the swing of baseball as quickly as possible.
“Just being able to play again honestly… just being around a bunch of good guys, that’s what I’m looking forward to,” Easley said.
“Just getting back on the field and being able to compete with teammates and stuff like that and being in that environment, you miss it when you don’t do it as much so I’m looking forward to getting back into that,” Davis said.
The happiness of the players being back on the field was evident to Nania, who said it was awesome to see their excitement. He saw after just a couple of practices how well the players clicked and gelled as a team.
“They had that long stretch where they were off and just working out at facilities trying to find place to go, but now we’re here and they’ve got a baseball field and they’re the only show in town, which is awesome,” Nania said. “I’m just looking for them to have a great experience here. Coming back out here after those three months of being off, just having fun out there, getting some fans to come in here and seeing some really, really good baseball.”
The Mustangs will be back at Hooker Field on Sunday for another exhibition game at 5 p.m.
Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.
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