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First show, first base

Before playing ONEOK Field’s first-ever concert, Jack White played baseball in North Tulsa

Jack White and filmmaker Sterlin Harjo at O’Brien Park

Greg Bollinger

Tulsa loves rock star Jack White and the feeling appears to be mutual.

On Monday, September 17, White performed an excellent concert Monday night at ONEOK Field, the ballpark’s first-ever major concert in its eight-year existence. White proclaimed that Tulsa was one of his and his band members’ favorite places to play, and also performed a portion of the show on a guitar made of wood from the old dance floor at Cain’s Ballroom. Before the show, he participated in an exhibition baseball game Sunday that raised awareness for and celebrated Native American culture.

White played as part of the Warstic Woodmen, a team made up of his band members, tour road crew and employees of the Dallas-based baseball bat and accessories company that he co-owns. They played against the “Green Country All-Stars,” a squad consisting of members of the Tulsa Sandlot Society and other Northeast Oklahoma Native American players.

White, a very private person who rarely talks to the press, declined multiple requests for interviews, both at the game and afterwards through his public relations firm.

But Ben Jenkins, co-owner of Warstic, the company the two founded along with Los Angeles Angels second baseman Ian Kinsler in 2011, was also at Sunday’s baseball game at O’Brien Park in North Tulsa and was happy to discuss what prompted the contest, which was dubbed the “Red River Riot.”

“We’re trying to do more things that are interacting with people in real life, and especially these kids,” said Jenkins, a former college and minor league ballplayer. “We have a lot of Native kids that we interact with and they happen to be here in Oklahoma, and my business partner Jack White happens to be playing (a concert) here, so let’s play a game. Let’s celebrate this, let’s help people more understand what the greater cause is, and he’s gracious enough to lend his personality to this.

“He’s fun to watch. It’s really weird to see him out of his natural habitat on stage and on this kind of stage. He loves it because he’s just one of the guys out here, so it’s a much different dynamic for him and fun for us.”

As talented a musician as he is, White proved to be a pretty good baseball player, too. Batting third in the lineup, White went 1-for-4 at the plate, grounding out to second base, striking out twice and then delivering a nice bloop single to left field in the ninth inning. He ended up coming around to score, providing the final run of the night in the Woodmen’s overwhelming 9-3 victory.

In the field, White played first base and made several impressive catches on difficult throws to record outs. Overall, he registered 13 putouts.

While the Green Country All-Stars jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, they only managed one more run the rest of the way, tying the game at 3-3 in the third before Warstic tacked on six more runs spread over innings 6-9.

There was a crowd of at least 200 people on hand, with plenty of other activities going on besides the game. There was a DJ playing music throughout the contest. There was a station for kids to paint and customize their own Warstic bats. There was a truck selling Warstic merchandise, including bats, shirts and other paraphernalia, as well as a poster designed specifically for the game. There was Rub Barbecue food truck, Chilly’s Shaved Ice truck, and even The Third Man Rolling Record Store, which sells vinyl releases from White’s Third Man Records out of a black and yellow truck.

And the 100-plus fans who stuck around for the entire game, which lasted well over three hours, were rewarded for their time when White agreed to sign autographs afterwards.

All evening, Native Americans were celebrated. During a pre-game ceremony, a circle of elders beat a tribal drum and sang multiple songs while Native dancers performed around them. They also performed two songs/dances during a break after the third inning.

Also before the game started, there were several presentations. First, a local Native named Mason Gray presented White with “a traditional black locust hunting bow, similar to a style that Cherokees have been using for thousands of years. I thought this would be a good gift because I heard Jack White was a fan of archery.”

Jenkins then presented two local Native kids with Warstic bats, and one of them also received a $1000 scholarship award to help further his baseball training.

“We’re just a baseball bat company, but we had the idea that companies should be a little more than just there to sell goods and make money,” Jenkins said. “We need to do good things with that money. Baseball has become a very expensive sport for kids, very inaccessible, but there’s kids that really want to train, they want to get better. We just try to raise funds to help those kids get access to those training lessons, those kind of teams. We’ve been doing that organically for a long time, but now we want to formalize that into a non-profit, create a specific fund, called the Native American Stick Warrior Fund.

“The other thing the fund will do is improve the facilities of baseball fields, softball fields, on tribal lands. Maybe we can improve a backstop, maybe a dugout, maybe we can improve the fielding surface – there’s all kinds of opportunities to do that. That’s the vision that Jack has shared with me for a long time.”

No wonder Tulsa likes him so much.

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