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The State College Spikes: A Tradition Much More Than Just Baseball

The State College Spikes first came to Happy Valley in 2006. For the past 14 summers, the organization has offered locals an affordable, family-friendly environment to spend their evenings.

Many have bought into this tradition and some, including the Oyler family, have molded their entire lives around it. 

Ted and Jennifer Oyler live in State College with their two kids, Trey and Linlee, now both in high school. In 2006, Ted’s financial firm purchased season tickets with another company. The following year, it purchased its own tickets, and Ted took his five and three-year-old kids to the park for nearly half of the 36 home games.

The next season, the Oylers committed to a five-year lease to a suite with three other families, followed by four season tickets behind home plate.

“From 2007 to 2017, our children spent summer nights at the ballpark,” Oyler said. “They basically grew up there, knowing ushers by name and having the experience of a very friendly, family-safe environment.” 

After being loyal fans for the first three years, the Oylers decided to become a host family for the Spikes organization, a program where families from the community open their doors and house players.

From 2009 to 2016, the Oylers welcomed 10 Spikes players in their home. Of those 10 was Brock Holt, a World Series champion currently playing with the Milwaukee Brewers, and Tyler Gaffney, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots. But for the kids, they were more than athletes. Trey and Linlee Oyler had 10 big brothers.

“For many years our family attended each game to watch our Spikes ‘sons’ and ‘brothers’ perform each night,” Oyler said.

Trey Oyler standing with his “Spikes Brother” Brock Holt.
(Courtesy of Jennifer Oyler)

“The host family experience exceeded expectations,” Oyler said. “We are very close with a few players and have created lifelong family relationships. These experiences helped to mold my children and teach them the importance of helping others.”

In early 2020, the State College Spikes were one of 42 minor league baseball teams at risk of being disaffiliated from Major League Baseball. Although the leagues are still working to develop a new Professional Baseball Agreement, the Spikes’ absence would certainly be felt in Happy Valley.

“Economically, the Spikes do so much for so many businesses and non-profits locally in addition to hosting awesome family-friendly home games 36 nights each summer,” Oyler said.

The community quickly responded by starting the #SaveOurSpikes initiative. Fans have made a hard push to keep this team in State College and have even started a website to share ways community members can help save the Spikes.

If the proposed PBA passes and the State College Spikes leave, this town would be losing a lot more than a minor league baseball team. The organization offers a fun, safe, family-friendly experience. The home games are an activity that is affordable for those who may not be able to afford similar events.

The Spikes offer employment to both high schoolers and people with disabilities, an opportunity that may be difficult to find elsewhere. State College would be losing a tradition that has helped many little kids fall in love with the sport of baseball.

“I’m an optimist about the facility remaining in State College,” Oyler said. “My hope is that local officials do everything possible to provide a venue that locals can continue to support.”

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About the Author

Samuel Brungo

Samuel is a Junior majoring in Film & Video from State College, Pennsylvania. While he is primarily visual staff, he also writes for Onward State and is a Co-Host of our podcast, Podward State. He enjoys sports, music, and art... also loves dogs. He roots for the Steelers, Penguins, and unfortunately, the Knicks. Beyond Onward State, Samuel is involved with Student Programming Association (SPA).

If you'd like to contact Samuel, you can email him at [email protected] OR connect with him via
Twitter @SBrungoPhoto
Instagram @SamuelBrungoPhotography.

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