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Pro baseball may return to Kalamazoo

Battle Creek Bombers

The smell of roasted peanuts, sizzling brats grilling, and the sounds of baseball could be coming back to Kalamazoo. There won’t be professional baseball in the city this season. But a new chapter in Kalamazoo’s baseball history could begin in 2014.

For more than a year there have been talks about a new ball club playing at Kalamazoo’s Homer Stryker Field. A team from the Northwoods League could play there beginning in 2014. It would include college players who play their regular season college schedule and then join a new team by the end of May. The Northwoods League has 17 teams, most of them in Minnesota and Wisconsin. There’s only one team in Michigan: the Battle Creek Bombers, where Brian Colopy is general manager. He admits that minor league baseball has had its ups and downs in southwest Michigan.

“There have been past teams that haven’t been able to stand the test of time. The Battle Creek Yankees and Southwest Michigan Devil Rays were in Battle Creek for two years each but left. We’ve have been able to stand the test of time and we feel that the Northwoods League could do the same in Kalamazoo.”(P) Sean Fletcher, Kalamazoo’s director of parks and recreation, says that having a new baseball team would be a great thing for the city.

Kalamazoo hasn’t had a minor league team since 2010 when the Kalamazoo Kings folded after a nine-year run. Before the Kings there were the Kalamazoo Kodiaks from 1996 until 1998 when the team moved to Canada.

Fletcher says his department is working on making things better around Mayor’s Riverfront Park.

“Based on what I know about the Northwood’s League it is very reputable and successful league. They have a very good business plan modeled after McDonald’s and Disney. They try to target the kids. By doing this they get the kids to the ball park.

Battle Creek Bombers General Manager Brian Colopy says the Frontier League has “Major League Baseball quality” players on its roster. He says, if a team comes to Kalamazoo, future major-leaguers could start their careers here.

Western Michigan University professor of economics Bill Kern studies sports and how professional teams impact affect economies. Kern says the environment of a stadium, food, and many other factors affect attendance at events. Kern says the prospects for a new baseball team in Kalamazoo, “Go beyond the play on the field and how well the team does. The Kings did pretty well at times but attendance wasn’t stimulated that much by their success or failure on the field”.

Before a team steps foot onto the grounds of Homer Stryker Field, there are many questions that need to be answered. They include what its name will be, possible changes at the city-owned stadium, and what special events may occur at games. If those details can be worked out, the crack of minor league bats may be heard again in Kalamazoo.