Countdown to inaugural Sabre Dogs season underway
By ALEX EISEN
Even if it doesn’t feel like it yet, baseball season is right around the corner.
For the newly founded Souris Valley Sabre Dogs, it’s 81 days and counting before they take the field for the first time in the startup Expedition League.
Preparing for an inaugural season offers plenty of unique challenges.
Putting together a competitive roster is obviously near the top of the list, but it’s the little things happening behind the scenes that keeps general manger Darrell Handelsman occupied this time of year — from turning the renovated Corbett Field into a comfortable home venue to getting the word out that this collegiate wood bat summer baseball team even exists.
“We are busy and have a lot of things to do,” Handelsman said. “The nice thing is we open on the road, so we get an extra seven days before that first home game on June 1st. But, the clock is ticking and we have a lot of things to get done prior to the season starting… It’s a mix of excitement, nervousness and stress. All of those things make it fun to get up and come to the office in the morning.”
One of the latest and significant tasks completed was a financial agreement made with the Magic City Youth Baseball organization to take over the oversight of Corbett Field.
“Basically, they are getting paid by the Sabre Dogs and the Expedition League for every dollar they made last year at Corbett,” Handelsman said. “All the concession revenue they had and all the advertising revenue that they had brought in, our ownership is writing them a check for about $40,000 to make sure they are taken care of.”
By paying out Magic City Youth Baseball, the Sabre Dogs will now control the concessions and all advertising that goes on at Corbett Field for every event.
“This is a big deal that everyone needs to understand, we didn’t displace Magic City Youth Baseball or the legion teams or the high schools or anything that has gone on there in the past,” Handelsman said. “That’s still going to go on. We are just going to be the ones operating the concessions and handling anything else that needs to go on out there in conjunction with those groups.”
It makes fundamental sense, especially from Handelsman’s vantage point, for the Sabre Dogs to maintain and foster a positive relationship with all the teams, players and baseball fans in the Minot community because doing so would benefit everyone in the long run.
“(We were) able to work out these agreements locally so that everybody could be taken care of, and so we weren’t stepping on anybody’s toes,” Handelsman said. “I would love for all these kids that are participating and playing baseball in this community to want to go away to college, come back and play for the Sabre Dogs one day. What we can provide now for some of these local kids, whose family and friends have seen them play out there since they were little, is something that hasn’t existed here in the past.”
So, while the decor at the historic Corbett Field will undergo a few changes to fit the Sabre Dogs needs, that also includes larger stadium renovations being in the works as well.
To start, a new VIP deck down the third baseline is being planned out to provide catering for groups of 20 or more people. Plus, some VIP tables added over by the first baseline.
Handelsman hopes more improvements can be made over time if this Sabre Dogs and Expedition League experiment proves to be successful. In the meantime, his focus is currently on finalizing the in-season promotion schedule, finding host families and continuing to sell tickets.
“The No. 1 goal right now is to get out, be visible and kind of let people know we are here,” he said. “I’ve been here since early January, it’s mostly been trying to educate the community and let them know what we have and what it’s going to be like. We are just trying to paint that picture for people.”
Easier said than done with winter striking back here in North Dakota and snow deciding to hang around the ballpark for a little bit longer.
Breaking out the bats will have to wait, but the Sabre Dogs keep pushing forward. The clock is still ticking after all.
“The list of things to do continues to grow daily,” Handelsman said. “But, that’s kind of par for the course in this business. So, we are rolling along, our calendar is full and every day is exciting with new cool things happening.”
The Sabre Dogs open the season May 25 on the road in Spearfish, South Dakota, with a three-game series against the Spearfish Sasquatch. Their first home game is Friday, June 1, at 6:35 p.m. against the Hub City Hotshots.
Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.