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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