The summer-collegiate Expedition League has announced several awards for its inaugural 2018 season, including Executive of the Year and Organization of the Year.
Executive of the Year has been given to Souris Valley Sabre Dogs General Manager Darrell Handelsman, while the Western Nebraska Pioneers have won Organization of the Year. Both winners were revealed as part of an announcement on Tuesday.
“The Expedition League and its eight teams had a tremendous 2018 season”, said Steve Wagner, Expedition League President. “There were some truly amazing individual performances, outstanding team performances, and excellent organizational achievements in our inaugural season. It’s wonderful to be able to recognize these great people with these awards, but there were so many solid accomplishments that it was difficult to narrow down the winners. The players, coaches, front office staffs, and owners have been incredible and I’m humbled that these talented people are a part of the Expedition League. And, of course, the fans across the League were amazing.”
The Expedition League’s 2018 Executive of the Year is Darrell Handelsman, General Manager of the Lewis Division regular season champion Souris Valley Sabre Dogs. Handelsman was instrumental in the financial and operational success of the Sabre Dogs. The game day experience for fans at Corbett Field was off the charts. His ingenuity with corporate partnership packages, ticket plans and options, and VIP / party deck areas was outstanding. The food options and food quality at Corbett Field were top shelf. Feedback from Sabre Dogs fans was incredible. “Every time I was in Minot, the Sabre Dogs fans were having a blast”, said Wagner. “There were lots of laughs and smiles from fans of all ages at Corbett Field this summer.”
Handelsman’s leadership was vital, especially since he wasn’t brought on until January. “It’s been a fun first year with lots of great accomplishments”, said Handelsman. “I want to thank all of our staff, interns and my Assistant GM for helping to make our inaugural season a big hit.” The Sabre Dogs averaged 721 fans per game this year, good for 4th best among all first-year summer collegiate teams. “The Sabre Dogs are well-poised for continued growth and success and this is largely owed to Darrell”, noted Wagner.
The 2018 Organization of the Year in the Expedition League is presented to the Western Nebraska Pioneers. The Pioneers not only performed well on the field, they also did an outstanding job off the field. “Owners Chuck and Mayra Heeman did a great job with the Pioneers”, stated Wagner. “They assembled an outstanding front office staff and served the great people of the Gering/Scottsbluff area with excellence. The in-game experience was extremely well done and the food & beverage offerings were excellent.”
The fans responded in a big way with the Pioneers drawing over 30,000 fans for the season for an average of 936 fans per game, which is 2nd best among all first-year summer collegiate teams and 73rd among all summer collegiate teams in North America. “It’s a cliché to say it, but this award goes to the entire community”, Pioneers owner Chuck Heeman said. “We could have put what we thought was the best product out there, in the best stadium, in the best market in the world. Without the amazing support of our community, none of that would have mattered. The full stands night after night and the nonstop energy that the fans brought kept us motivated throughout the summer. Our front office staff, interns, game day staff, players and coaches all fed off that energy and it carried us to some amazing things. We thank the fans of Western Nebraska and Eastern Wyoming for making this such an incredible year.”
Opening Day for the 2019 Expedition League season is Friday May 24, 2019.