Kalamazoo is poised to become the second Michigan city to host a Northwoods
minor-league baseball team and the franchise, which so far does not have a name, is planning a public event in mid-to-late October.
A five-year contract signed with the Northwoods League calls for a new, Kalamazoo-based team to play beginning in 2014 at Homer Stryker Field, a 5,000-seat venue.
Northwoods will pay the city $35,000 to use the facility for 35 games and 15 practices. The payment also will go toward field maintenance.
The income will cover all costs for having the team play in Kalamazoo, so taxpayers will not be subsidizing local minor league baseball. The revenue also will help the city of Kalamazoo cover fixed costs for stadium upkeep that continue regardless of whether a team is using the venue.
The league will grow to 18 franchises when Kalamazoo and Kenosha, Wisc., join in 2014. Officials say another two could follow.
The Northwoods League’s team rosters are populated with the cream of America’s collegiate players who use the summer league to hone their skills and catch the attention of pro scouts. There are often 10 to 15 scouts at most games. Considered amateurs, the players are not paid but they are anticipated as top talent to be drafted for the majors.
The Northwoods League has produced a number of major league players, including Tiger-turned-Yankee Curtis Granderson Jr. and Tiger outfielder Andy Dirks. Reportedly, 120 major league scouts recently attended Northwoods’ 2013 All-Star Game.
Another feature of the teams is players stay with local host families as they play 70 games in a 73-day season in the league that has teams in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois.
The Northwoods League’s Battle Creek Bombers
are expected to be a rival for Kalamazoo’s new franchise. Their general manager Brian Colopy says he looks forward to also being managing partner in Kalamazoo.
"Every time you come to a game we want to exceed your expectations, whether it’s what you’re eating, drinking, the player interaction, the promotions and cleanliness," Colopy said. "The fans are going to see some great baseball at family-friendly prices."
Kalamazoo’s last foray into minor league baseball ended in 2010 after the Kalamazoo Kings played there for 10 years. Before that, Kalamazoo’s team was the Kodiaks. Kalamazoo’s baseball traditions date back to 1887, and include teams like the Kazoos, the Celery Eaters, and the Lassies, a 1950’s franchise of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Sean Fletcher, City of Kalamazoo