Published On: December 23rd, 2008

(BAXTER, MN) The Northwoods League announced today that St. Cloud River Bats Owner Joel Sutherland has purchased the Brainerd Blue Thunder and has taken over operations of the team beginning immediately. The Northwoods League had owned the franchise since early September.

Sutherland has owned the St. Cloud River Bats since the team’s inception into the Northwoods League in 1997. He also started the Alexandria Beetles as owner in 2001. Both of those franchises continue their longstanding success in central Minnesota. The River Bats have won three Northwoods League championships in 12 seasons and have averaged better than 1,850 fans per game since 2000. Alexandria, a city of roughly 10,000 people, has averaged better than 1,000 fans per game in their 8-year history.

Assisting Sutherland in turning the Brainerd franchise into a thriving Northwoods League affiliate will be the management staff that works with him in St. Cloud. River Bats Vice Presidents Ryan Voz and Marc Jerzak will share duties operating both the River Bats and the Brainerd-Baxter affiliate. Voz has been involved with the NWL since starting as the Assistant General Manager in St. Cloud in 1998-99. He rejoined the River Bats in 2007 after a six-year run as General Manager of the Alexandria Beetles. Voz joined Sutherland in starting that franchise in 2001 and carried it for the next five years into its current day successful state. Jerzak began his Northwoods League career with in internship in Alexandria during that 2001 season. He joined the River Bats full-time staff in 2002 before taking over as the team’s General Manager in 2005. 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.

As of today, the “Blue Thunder” nickname is officially removed from the Brainerd-Baxter franchise. The organization will be holding a name-the-team contest beginning today through Monday, January 5th. Fans can submit their ideas with an email to with the winning submission receiving two season tickets for life.

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