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  • Fargo, Eh? A Case for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks

    David Youngs

    Last week the Twins announced that they would be parting ways with the Rochester Red Wings, their long-time Triple-A affiliate. And while there’s compelling speculation that the Twins will link arms with their friends across the river, we mustn't forget about the “world’s biggest small-town” nestled four hours (three and a half if you’re going seven over) west on the prairie. Fargo.

    Image courtesy of Fargo-Moorhead CVB

    The Woodchipper. Carson Wentz. Flannel shirts and Busch Light. While these traits certainly scratch the tip of the iceberg (for better or worse), there is a wealth of untapped beauty in Fargo, North Dakota that the world has yet to uncover.

    One of those things is the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, the city’s independent professional baseball franchise that has graced the community with quality baseball since 1996. From years of dominance in the Northern League to recent years as a perennial staple in the American Association, the RedHawks have become a staple in the world of independent professional baseball.

    Their biggest rival? The St. Paul Saints, the probable favorite to step into the role of a minor league affiliate for the Minnesota Twins. And while the potential marriage of the Twin Cities’ teams seems next to perfect, there is a case to be made for knotting the RedHawks to a Major League franchise.

    Location, Location, Location

    Successful minor league baseball teams are grounded in flourishing communities. While some fans come to games to watch talented prospects (or in the American Association’s case, former ones), a majority of attendance comes from everyday folks wanting to enjoy a night at the ballpark.

    Fargo (and North Dakota in general) doesn’t have any major league sports teams (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL). Their ‘professional sports teams’ are NDSU football, UND hockey...and the RedHawks.

    In a community of 200,000 the RedHawks are planted in the perfect location to draw fans, both baseball gurus and families looking for an evening of fun. The RedHawks have developed a strong footing in the Red River Valley amongst businesses, schools, and the general public. While their marketing may not rival that of the Saints, the RedHawks anchor their image around fun as demonstrated by unique bobbleheads, letting kids run the bases, and Jimmy Buffett impersonators.


    A double-sided bobblehead of legendary RedHawks and Concordia College coach Bucky Burgau.

    Image Courtesy of David Youngs

    The Hawks call Newman Outdoor Field their home, nestled just off the campus of North Dakota State University. Built in 1996, the 4,513 seat ballpark features a wealth of vendors, many of which are local food and brewery options. There is a beer garden that hugs the left field line and a merchandise shop on the main concourse behind home plate. Last year an additional bar-like restaurant was added along the right field line.

    The Hawks weren’t the only ones to call “The Nest” their home in 2020. Due to the travel risks associated with COVID, the Winnipeg Goldeyes played their home games in Fargo. The move was a gesture of goodwill that contributed towards the RedHawks being named the 2020 American Association of the year.


    A Young (but Unique) History

    Despite their young history, the RedHawks have a myriad of storylines surrounding their franchise.

    • The team is managed by former World Series champion Chris Coste. A catcher for the 2008 World Champion Phillies, the Concordia College alum was a star for the RedHawks on his road to the Major Leagues, documented in his autobiography The 33 Year Old Rookie.

    • Similar to other American Association teams, the RedHawks have seen former Major League standouts come through town following their tenure in the MLB. In addition to Coste, this list includes former Twins outfielder Rich Becker, infamous Brewers standout Randall Simon, and legendary Dodgers base-swiper Maury Wills.

    • 318, 404, and 314. What do these numbers mean? No, not Pi, but the dimensions of old Yankee Stadium..and Newman Outdoor Field. Yankee great and Hall of Fame snub Roger Maris grew up in Fargo and attended Shanley High School. The original Home Run King, Maris is arguably the most notable athlete to come out of the Red River Valley. His legacy is honored by the ballpark’s dimensions and by the Roger Maris Museum at West Acres mall.

    Steal Homers, Not Fans

    There’s no doubt that having a minor league affiliate across the river from Target Field is an enticing thought. Low cost of travel, unity of fandom, and reuniting two teams that have a rich history are all extremely valuable reasons to expand the Twins family to St. Paul.

    However, there is one potential negative; fans having to decide whether to attend Twins games or Saints games.

    Of course, none of this matters until COVID is under control and fans are allowed back in ballparks. Yet the Twins expanding their web to Fargo blossoms an opportunity to expose a passionate group of fans to Twins baseball; without leaving the seats of Target Field empty.

    Fargo and the state of North Dakota is rich with Twins pride. Everyone and their cousin supports the Twins (except my Yankee-loving college roommate Erik Porter) in the Flickertail State and would flock Newman Outdoor Field if the RedHawks became the breeding ground of future Twins superstars.

    Even better, Fargo is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Minneapolis. Players would be able to make the sub-hour flight to Target Field upon being called up and the organization would certainly save money on expenses compared to Rochester.

    I’m not here to say that the Saints aren’t a great option; they are. However, given the blossoming community, already present fan base, and ability to stay relevant, the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks would look pretty darn good with an intertwined ‘T-C’ stamped next to their name.



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    With all due respect, it looks like a wonderful ballpark.


    But I have received pushback on Lincoln, NE, Haymarket Park, ALSO part of the AA which could find itself failing, as an option for the Twins. Wouldn't a beautiful ballpark in a city/state that thrives on amateur and semi-professional teams/athletics be just as good of a choice? (With SLIGHTLY better weather).


    Never understood an arguement for the Royals being in Omaha. This is a state that loves and supports sports and the Lincoln Salt Dogs have brought in fans and won within the confines of the AA.

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    As has been said in another recent thread and other past threads, A and AA teams travel by bus. That means that there has to be a minimum of 8 teams within a reasonable bus ride of each other. An affiliated AA league will never, ever be located in an area that includes Fargo (or Lincoln) because the three current AA leagues are well-established and fulfill that requirement. Even the A Midwest League would have other options farther south. You can add to all this the fact that MiLB is undergoing contraction. I'm afraid having an affiliated team in Fargo is a pipe dream at best and delusional at worst.

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    I`m from the Red River Valley. Twins are the closest   MLB team,  having an affiliate there would increase interest. There are many Twins fans but a few NYY fans w/ many indifferent therefore        an affiliate would increase the fan base. I imagine that they`d  have to pay that entry fee. If St. Paul have trouble paying it what about Fargo?

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    Reno has a metro area population of around 475,000. They are one of the smallest AAA markets, and after a decade-long honeymoon period with robust attendance, they have fallen off in recent years, with the second lowest attendance in the PCL in 2019, third lowest in all of AAA.


    Fargo-Moorhead is slightly more than half their size, under 250,000.


    It'd be a steep climb, to make it financially there. If MLB suddenly decides to completely subsidize AAA, then it's their choice, but all signs are that they want a lot of local buy-in.


    I'd invest in an independent-league team in Fargo, if offered, but not AAA.

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    "However, there is one potential negative; fans having to decide whether to attend Twins games or Saints games."

    I don't believe the Saints are having any problem getting fans to Lowertown and the Twins haven't been complaining about them. Adding the Saints as a AAA affiliate is the much better option.

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    Could Fargo-Moorhead front the $20 million?  It's worth a discussion, but would be a pipe dream.  I really hope the Saints stand up to MLB and say no, but that being said, I wouldn't NOT go.  In fact, I'd love it.  It's just my frustration with MLB owners is larger than my love for the minors right now.

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    In theory, I love the idea. I do like having the minor league team a little farther removed than St. Paul, almost as a level of community outreach beyond the MSP Metro. If nothing else, I'd end up getting to Junkyard far more often!


    But as others have already pointed out, it doesn't really work from a logistics standpoint. 


    Fargo as a city would be the smallest city in AAA and A 4,500 seat ballpark just isn't big enough for AAA. 10,000 seats is the minimum recommended size for AAA, and other than Tacoma which was grandfathered in with 6800 seats, there's no park at AAA with less than 9,000 seats. St. Paul is getting around those rules because they have an average attendance of 8,000 people.


    Fargo only has an average attendance of 3,500 people, and while being an affiliated team might give them a slight bump, we're talking a few hundred fans a game not a few thousand. With those kinds of numbers, it's just not realistic to think that anyone in Fargo is going to put up the $20M needed for a AAA franchise.


    And has been mentioned, neither Fargo, nor Duluth, nor Rochester, nor any other city around Minnesota will ever be a Double-A city, because there are no Double-A Leagues in the upper midwest. The closest AA city is Springfield Missouri - and I don't think many MLB teams want to put their prospects on a 12 hour bus ride for their shortest roadtrip. 

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    Whether AAA or AA, would love to see the Twins working with Fargo.  Great baseball town.  My son's Legion Team used to play in a tourney there every summer.  Loved that trip.  Unfortunately, there isn't a good fit in AA distance wise.  


    Although would love to see Fargo, St. Paul still is the best fit.

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    No way would MLB allow it, unless Fargo built much larger stadium.  The 4500 seats are not big enough for a AAA team.  Saints stadium is small for AAA but MLB has reached out to Saints so think they would be okay with it.  


    Also, the info about who manages them is moot as the Twins would bring in their staff. 

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