A Hidden Sports Gem: The Decatur Commodores
February 9, 2023
There is a hidden baseball gem in central Illinois near Millikin University, and that is the Decatur Commodores. The historic team has played a huge role in the lives of hundreds of baseball players throughout central Illinois.
Founded in the winter of 2008, the Decatur Commodores are a high school-age baseball team that aims to provide exposure to high school baseball athletes wanting to play college or professional baseball.
“I was originally a Legion Post 105 coach, and we broke away from legion baseball to start the commodores,” Stacey Lowe, treasurer of the team said. “We did this to get the kids in the area more exposure to college recruiters.”
Several passionate baseball advocates pushed for the team’s creation. They call central Illinois their home, which is one of the reasons they felt motivated to begin the organization.
For example, Doug Fox, a current board member for the Commodores, had a special motivation to support the team.
“I became more involved with the Decatur Commodores when my son played for the team in 2016,” he said. “I was approached about becoming a board member in 2018.”
As the team has grown in number over the years; it has also grown in strength and renown. Jeremy Current, president of the Decatur Commodores Board, notes the team’s progress.
“I believe our organization has grown geographically in central Illinois and surrounding communities based on the experience that families have had that have participated in the organization,” he said. “We have grown from 30-40 kids at tryouts to 100 plus kids in a given year from as far south as Centralia, Illinois to as far north as Pontiac, Illinois.”
J.D. Arnold, a former Millikin baseball coach, became heavily involved with the Commodores in 2013. He has served an important role in increasing awareness of the team, also serving as their 16u head coach.
“Our reputation as one of the top travel baseball organizations has spread not only throughout Illinois, but throughout the Midwest,” he said. “There is rarely an opponent that we play anymore that does not know about our organization either having played us previously or by word of mouth.”
The team is named after the minor league Decatur Commodores, who played in central Illinois from 1900 to 1974. The team was primarily associated with the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants.
Kevin Koslofski, longtime coach for the 18u Commodores, was present when naming the team. Although he was hesitant about it at first, he agrees that the name has a rich historical meaning.
“Initially, I didn’t like it,” he said. “I wanted to do something more original, but I’m glad we named the team the way we did because it does spotlight the baseball history of Decatur.”
The Commodores are proud to boast two players who are currently on Major League Baseball Rosters: Reid Detmers of the Los Angeles Angels, who threw a no-hitter and immaculate inning in 2022; and Nick Maton, a shortstop for the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies who played in this year’s World Series.
Millikin created a partnership with the Decatur Park District, allowing the team to call Sunnyside Park their home until the creation of Workman Family Baseball Field in 2019. When the Commodores entered the scene in 2009, the three organizations partnered to renovate Sunnyside, giving the two teams a high-quality field to play on.
The Commodores have always shared a unique relationship with Millikin University, as several players from the team have gone on to attend the school. The Commodores’ head coach, Brandon Townsend, also serves as the head coach for Big Blue baseball.
This unique relationship has served many college athletes well, and Townsend is thankful for his position.
“It is a great way to be involved with area baseball players and helps give more attention to Millikin baseball through my involvement,” he said. “We usually have three to five athletes that were on the Commodores at some point.”
Not only does it benefit the athletes, but the strength of Millikin’s baseball team has also increased, as the players must be solid athletes in order to compete for the Commodores. As the Commodores continue to grow, many great opportunities will be created for these athletes. For example, the relationship formed between coaches and players continues well after the players complete their athletic careers.
“We select players not only based on their ability, but also their character,” Koslofski said. “We get to establish relationships with the players and their families and try to continue to assist and support them whether it be through job referrals or even attending their weddings.”
“Baseball is important. Relationships are more important,” Koslofski said.