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Beetles baseball: Safe at home

The Beetles, who will be known as the Blue Anchors this season, will stay safely ensconced at Knute Nelson Memorial Stadium now that a new local ownership group has taken over the team.

Alexandria fans who want to see Northwoods League baseball continue in this city can put their minds at ease after a new group of local owners became official on Wednesday morning.

Alexandria's Scott Allen, Shaynen Schmidt and Shane Schmidt joined Minnesota Baseball Academy owner Adam Barta in forming the new ownership group for the Northwoods League franchise in Alexandria. It was a deal that has been in the works for about a month and one that ultimately got done because of this group's desire to see baseball in the NWL stick for years to come.

"When we had the interview with the league, the board of directors, that was one of the first questions they asked was, 'What's your time frame?' " Allen said. "They didn't want us coming in and flipping it in a couple years. I basically said 'lifetime' and I think Adam had the same response and so did Shane. We want to see that level of baseball and have that be here for the community."

League president Dick Radatz Jr. wouldn't release the cost that the organization was sold for but was excited about how this came together after taking over the team from former owner Shawn Reilly earlier this winter.

"I think we're very relieved," Radatz said. "There were a number of inquiries. I think we could have sold to a number of different people, but I think this was the best option, truthfully. Having the local aspect is very important and ideal to have. Scott had also been a previous owner of the club, and he brings the knowledge of the Northwoods League with him."

Allen said he was first approached by the league in January about being the general manager of this team. As things went along, talks turned toward trying to put together an ownership group.

It is a group that is in the process of finalizing a lot of things before the first pitch of the season against Duluth on May 29. Included in that is a change in name from the Beetles to the Alexandria Blue Anchors.

They have also named a general manager in former NWL player and current St. Cloud resident Joe Dempsey. Their biggest splash has come in the form of hiring former Minnesota Twins player and third-base coach Al Newman as the team's field manager for 2013.

"I think this group, including Dempsey and [Newman] and certainly Shane, Scott and myself, we're baseball 365 days out of the year," Barta said. "It's a perfect match for all parties involved. This isn't a job to any of us. It's fun first, and to be able to give back to the city of Alexandria I think is going to be a lot of fun."

Allen, a former partial owner of the Beetles, said timing was everything in giving ownership a second chance. He knew what kind of commitment it took and said he wasn't sure if he was ready to take that on when he was first approached by Reilly about possibly buying the team late last summer.

"I didn't have anyone in mind as a GM and I didn't have time to put toward it," Allen said. "It's a financial issue as well. It's a break-even thing in a good year. In a bad year, it probably loses money. Really, you need to be all in. I didn't have the capacity to be all in when Shawn approached me originally."

That ended up changing after the league contacted him earlier this year. He knew he didn't want to see the Beetles leave after this summer, and the best way to assure that was by putting together a group of buyers.

"That's really why both Shane and I agreed to come back in because when the league assumed ownership, I had a pretty good idea that it was going to be one and done," Allen said. "The schedule had been out, so we were committed to this year...Our market is probably the smallest market in the league. A new team in the league would generate substantially more dollars than what Alexandria would. That's just the bottom line. What brought me in at that time was I didn't want to see them gone after this year."

With the new ownership will come some new plans for the team going forward. Among those is the hope of building a roster in 2014 and beyond that features a lot of Minnesota players.

"There's a lot of really great talent up here in Minnesota," Dempsey said. "The big thing is getting our Minnesota talent a place to shine and also build up the communities around here. I know last year we had Dalton Leuschke for 10 games, and he did a fantastic job on a short contract. It's those types of players who deserve opportunities to showcase their skills."

The 2013 roster has been set for months and will once again feature guys from all over the country. Alabama's Ben Moore proved how good those players can be after winning the 2012 NWL MVP award in a Beetles uniform.

"Our mission long term is to give as much exposure as we can to this Midwest player," Allen said. "It's nothing against the other players we bring in. We've had awesome players. Many of them drafted. Allen Craig just signed a brand new deal last week. We've had a ton of great players. We're just going to try and make sure that there's Minnesota players as well that are getting the chance to play within this league."

That could mean a few more recognizable names on the field every summer. The important thing for fans of this organization is that, regardless of the name on the jersey, NWL baseball will still be played at Knute Nelson Field for years to come.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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