WILLMAR, MN (PRESS RELEASE) - The Northwoods League announced today that the league will be expanding to Willmar, Minnesota beginning with the 2010 season. A group led by experienced Northwoods League team executives Ryan Voz and Marc Jerzak has purchased the NWL expansion franchise in Willmar and the team will play its home games at Bill Taunton Stadium.
Willmar, a city of around 19,000 people, is located about 90 miles west of Minneapolis and 60 miles southwest of St. Cloud in West Central Minnesota. Bill Taunton Stadium has twice hosted Northwoods League regular season games, once in 2006 and again the following year in 2007. Both of those games drew more than 1,000 fans to the ballpark, including 1,425 on July 25, 2006 when Alexandria defeated Mankato 3-2. At that time, Ryan Voz was the General Manager of the Alexandria Beetles.
"Willmar is a very similar market to Alexandria and we decided to play a home game in Willmar during the 2006 season," Voz said. "It was to our surprise what a great ballpark the community of Willmar had created and I have always thought Willmar could be a possibility for a Northwoods League franchise."
"After further review," Voz continued, "the city of Willmar had a vision when the ballpark was rebuilt and we are excited to bring Northwoods League baseball to this fine market."
Voz has spent the last three years with the St. Cloud River Bats alongside fellow Vice President Marc Jerzak. In 2009 their responsibilities increased when the St. Cloud management also operated the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers to a successful first season of existence. In addition to Brainerd in '09, Voz and Jerzak were both vital to the launch of Alexandria in 2001 when Voz was the GM and Jerzak was an intern.
"Everyday I'm more and more impressed with the people and the business leaders in the City of Willmar and the surrounding areas," Jerzak said. "After being a part of several Northwoods Leagues markets, the pride and passion of the people towards baseball and their community is off the charts."
Voz, 34, and Jerzak, 30, have a combined 20 years of experience in the Northwoods League. Both men have once been named the Northwoods League Executive of the Year; Voz earned the award in 2003 and Jerzak earned it in 2007. Voz and Jerzak are joined in this venture with owner/business partner Gary Posch. Posch is very familiar with the Northwoods League and has been a fan of the concept and opportunities it provides.
"Willmar could not be getting two finer baseball executives to own and run their franchise," Northwoods League President Dick Radatz, Jr. said. "With their experience in the Northwoods League we should expect good things immediately and I look forward to visiting Willmar for years to come. Congratulations to Ryan, Marc, Gary and Willmar, Minnesota"
The new Willmar franchise is currently without a name, but fans and community members can change that. Beginning today through November 1st fans can submit their ideas with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the winning submission receiving two season tickets for life.
The Northwoods League plays more games than, draws more fans than, and plays in venues superior to any Summer Collegiate Baseball League in North America. The 17th season of Northwoods League baseball will begin in early June 2010 with the release of the schedule expected in November. Willmar joins Alexandria, Brainerd, Duluth, Mankato, Rochester, and St. Cloud as Minnesota cities in the NWL; Eau Claire, Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, and Wausau from Wisconsin; Waterloo, Iowa; Battle Creek, Michigan; and Thunder Bay, Ontario.
To date, 59 former Northwoods League players have gone on to play Major League Baseball including nine making their MLB Debut in 2009. Five players currently playing in the League Championship Series once played in the Northwoods League including Andre Ethier, Juan Pierre, George Sherrill, and Jeff Weaver of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Robb Quinlan of the Los Angeles Angels.
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