Joel Sutherland, the successful owner of the St. Cloud River Bats, is taking a shot at making baseball work in Brainerd — a market where franchises go to die.
Joel Sutherland, the successful owner of the St. Cloud River Bats (summer collegiate; Northwoods League), is taking a shot at making baseball work in Brainerd — a market where franchises go to die.
He’s taking control of the Brainerd franchise in the summer-collegiate circuit, which should prove to be quite the challenge. No one has successfully made baseball work in the summer-resort community: the Brainerd-Baxter market is small to begin with, Mills Field is a challenging venue, and four previous teams — two Northwoods League teams, two independent teams — have all folded, with the former Brainerd Gulls drawing the best of the lot at 879 fans per game in 2002.
So, in essence Sutherland is starting from scratch. His lieutenants with the River Bats will help run things, and Sutherland will be shedding the GM title with the River Bats to focus on the Brainerd team, which will lose the Blue Thunder moniker in an effort to rebrand marketing efforts. Too bad: the Blue Thunder name was pretty good and tied into the whole Paul Bunyan ethos.