MANKATO, MN. – The Mankato MoonDogs baseball club will have a new look, a new feel and new ownership as they prepare for their 20th season of play in the Northwoods League this summer. The Mankato franchise introduced their new five-person ownership group, led by local owners Chad Surprenant and Kyle Smith, rolled out a new logo and shared an update on the ongoing renovations at Franklin Rogers Park at a press conference held inside of the Verizon Center in downtown Mankato earlier today.
The Diamond Dreams, LLC ownership group, comprised of local business leaders Chad Surprenant and Kyle Smith, as well as a trio of long-time Northwoods League veterans in Dan Kapanke, Chris Goodell & Ben Kapanke, purchased the MoonDogs from previous owner Mark Ogren earlier this off-season.
“Growing up in Mankato and coming back here after college and some years away, I have tremendous pride in what we have grown as a community” stated Surprenant. “Additionally, I have always been a huge fan of baseball. I played baseball since I can remember, and the bond it forged between my father and me cannot be taken away even with his passing in 2011. To be part of local ownership that is supplemented by baseball management expertise from our friends in La Crosse is a dream come true. I sincerely hope that keeping the MoonDogs in Mankato and improving the fan experience can help create relationships for other people that baseball so generously gave me. For fifteen years, I have been part of design teams that created long term plans for Franklin Rogers. To watch those visions become reality on a field where I played so many innings of baseball is surreal. I promise to be a good and generous owner to the game, the City of Mankato, and the community at large. A huge thank you to all who have been friends along the way and to the many more who will come in time.”
Fellow owner and Mankato developer Kyle Smith added, “The opportunity to work with the City of Mankato in further enhancing the baseball experience for players and fans alike is very special and we look at this opportunity as a privilege as we plan for even bigger and better things at Franklin Rogers Park. Additionally, I am excited to be able to partner with Chad, Dan, Chris and Ben in this new venture that will undoubtedly take MoonDogs baseball to a whole new level.”
The Diamond Dreams ownership group was joined at the press conference by their front office staff that consists of general manager Austin Link, director of group ticket sales Tyler Kuch and director of ticket sales Justin White. Link, a Minnesota State Mankato alum, is in the midst of his fourth season in the Northwoods League and third with the MoonDogs. Kuch, also a MSU alum, is enjoying his second season with the MoonDogs after stints with the Major League Baseball Player Alumni Association and the Futures Collegiate League. Like his co-horts, White is another MSU alum that was born and raised in Mankato and is in the midst of his third season with the MoonDogs.
The MoonDogs organization also has two key members of their coaching staff returning for the 2018 season as well in field manager Ryan Kragh and assistant coach Matt Wollenzin. 2018 will be Kragh’s fifth season with Mankato and third as the skipper. He has led the MoonDogs to a 90-54 record (.625) and back-to-back playoff appearances over the last two seasons at the helm. Kragh also serves as the assistant athletic director and head baseball coach at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato. Wollenzin returns for his fourth season as an assistant coach with Mankato and will once again work the MoonDogs hitters and man the third base coaching box. Wollenzin, who is also an assistant coach at Bethany Lutheran College, was a standout player in his own right having earned Northwoods League all-star honors as a player for the MoonDogs in 2013.
The newly formed Diamond Dreams group also unveiled a new MoonDogs logo to coincide with the ownership change and shared a video of the set of enhancements that are currently taking shape at Franklin Rogers Park. These major upgrades, which are being financed by the City of Mankato and engineered by ISG, include the installation of an artificial turf playing surface, new dugouts, locker room, expanded concessions and new berm seating located down the right field line. Furthermore, the MoonDogs elevated loft space that has houses large groups is being upgraded to also include space for 4-top premium table seating. All of these enhancements are expected to be completed in time for the May 29 season opener when Mankato plays host to the Duluth Huskies at 7:05 p.m.
About the Diamond Dreams Ownership Group …
Chad Surprenant is the current president and CEO of ISG, a Mankato-based engineering and architectural firm that has been a growing business in and outside of Mankato for over 40 years. Surprenant, a Mankato native, is an active member of the Mankato community serving in a variety of roles including: Treasurer of the Greater Mankato Growth Board, Board Member of the Mankato Area Foundation, Mankato Area Youth Baseball Association and the GreenSeem Steering Committee along with serving as Chair of the Minnesota State University Civil Engineering Advisory Board and Director of the Cultivation Corridor Board. He also served as past president of both the Mankato Golf Club and the South Central College Foundation Board.
Kyle Smith is currently a principal and director of development of The Tailwind Group. He spends much of his time generating new business opportunities in both the student housing and commercial sectors. Holding a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Minnesota State University, Kyle has not only been active in real estate development, but his business experience also includes aviation, health & fitness franchising and the food service industry.
Dan Kapanke has owned the La Crosse Loggers Baseball Club in La Crosse, Wisc. since the team’s inception in 2003 and has been the driving force behind enhancing the city-owned Copeland Park facility. A former politician, Kapanke served as a Wisconsin State Senator from 2004 through 2011 when he represented the 32nd District. Prior to his leadership role in the political realm, Kapanke had been in the agriculture business for 20 years.
Chris Goodell is in the midst of his nineteenth season in the Northwoods League, having spent time with both the Waterloo Bucks and La Crosse Loggers franchises. Goodell, who currently serves as the general manager of the Loggers, has been with the organization since their inaugural season of 2003, helping build a stadium and team that is one of the top drawing teams in all of summer collegiate baseball. Goodell was honored as the Northwoods League Executive of the Year on two occasions, in 2004 and in 2012, and was recognized as the La Crosse Tribune’s Sports Person of the Year in 2009 and 2012.
Ben Kapanke is in the midst of his thirteenth season in the Northwoods League and in his ninth year as the assistant general manager of the La Crosse Loggers. Kapanke helps oversee the day-to-day operations and is heavily involved with sponsorship sales, ballpark management, the Loggers concession operations as well as the team’s finances. Kapanke got his introduction to the Northwoods League in 2002 when he served as an umpire after attending the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring.
The Mankato MoonDogs are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Entering its 25th anniversary season, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 20 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 185 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champion Ben Zobrist (CHC) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (LAD) and Lucas Duda (TBR). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.mankatomoondogs.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the MoonDogs as your favorite team.