Northwoods team Has Minnesota Feel
The Alexandria Blue Anchors to be 'anchored' with several Blizzard Alumni
15 of the 30 Blue Anchor players signed this year are from Minnesota and while many of the Northwoods franchises are scouring the country to fill their entire roster, Minnesota high school alumni including Aaron Gretz (Apple Valley/Ohio State), Kris Goodman (Apple Valley/Iowa) and Ryan Busch (Roseville/Georgetown) are anchoring a very promising Blue Anchor team.
Goodman and Gretz, who were former high school teammates at Apple Valley, are Big 10 rivals but are looking forward to coming back and playing with each other and past teammates in Alex this summer.
"I am very excited to play with some former teammates," Gretz said. "I still keep in touch with a lot of my Blizzard teammates even from when I played on the 12u team. Many of them have become lifelong friends. To be getting a chance to play with them again in college is going to be a really fun experience that I am looking forward to."
Goodman, who hit over .300 during the Anchors season in 2013, expressed his excitement in getting to play with former teammates and opponents.
"It's exciting to come back and be able to play alongside a lot of the talented guys I played against in high school," Goodman said. "I'm looking forward to seeing how much better we've all gotten over the years since high school!"
The coaching staff, led by former 1987 and 1991 Minnesota Twins World Series Champion, Al Newman, includes Hitting Coach, Joe Anthonsen (Cottage Grove), First Base Coach, Derrick Pfeffer (Hastings) and Pitching Coach, Andy Johnson (Wayzata).
"The Alexandria Blue Anchors new ownership group is trying to promote homegrown talent," Anchor Skipper Al Newman said. "This years' roster is loaded with local players with D1 experience."
The team, which will be the first assembled under part-owner, Adam Barta, is looking to build on a 2013 season that saw the team lead the entire Northwoods League in hitting (.286).
"This year, really wanted to focus our ball club around pitching to compliment our offense," Barta said. "We think we have good enough arms to be six or seven starters deep and have a very good bullpen with some power arms to finish games that we weren't able to last year."
With college and pro connections through Barta's Blizzard baseball program based in the Twin Cities, reaching out to coaches throughout the state has allowed more coaches to place their players and also trust that their players will get taken care of.
The Anchors will have Minnesota Golden Gopher, Jake Bergren, in their outfield this year and Assistant Head Coach Rob Fornasiere likes that fact that these players in Minnesota get a chance to stay home.
" We applaud the Alexandria Blue Anchor franchise in their effort to attract native Minnesota players to their Northwoods League team," Fornasiere said. "Having a quality place to play summer ball in their home state is a real plus for the Minnesota grown athlete."
The same goes for nationally-ranked Division III teams like St. Scholastica and St. Thomas.
"As a college coach of a successful NCAA Division III program I know Alexandria identifies and values the talents of college baseball players at all levels," St. Scholastica Head Coach Corey Kemp said. "There are many graduates of Minnesota high schools who have been extremely successful in the Northwoods League and many more who will continue to be assets for organizations like Alexandria."
The University of St. Thomas, which has won two National Championships since 2000, has had several players in the league.
"I could not be more excited about the Blue Anchors and their philosophy on using Minnesota talent from all levels of college baseball in their program," St. Thomas Head Coach Chris Olean said. "Having had multiple players in the Northwood's league and at times having concerns about their treatment, I have no reservations about sending my guys to Alexandria. Playing for the Blue Anchors and for Al Newman, I feel very confident that my guys will receive a fair opportunity to compete, great instruction, and will also be taken care of from a coaching and health standpoint."
In addition, Major League Baseball area scouts, appreciate the effort that goes into putting the highest quality players on the field as well. Allen Craig of the St. Louis Cardinals played for Alexandria before being drafted and since 1994, more than 115 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (DET), Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (WAS), Curtis Granderson (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (TB).
"The Chicago White Sox have an interest in many of the players and especially in Alexandria," White Sox Area Scout JJ Lally said. "Having followed some of these players like Pat Kelly, Ryan Boldt and Sam Hentges in high school, the Anchors and the Northwoods give me an opportunity to observe their track record first hand."
The Alexandria Blue Anchors are slated to begin their season May 27th at home vs. the Mankato Moondogs with a 6:35 start.. All home games are at Knute Nelson Memorial Field in Alexandria, MN.