New college summer league team set to start in 2020.
Beginning in the summer of 2020, the hounds will run once again at the St. Croix Meadows Dog Track site in Hudson, which has been inactive for years. But these new hounds will be baseball players.
A new franchise team in the summer collegiate Northwoods League, the St. Croix River Hounds, will begin play in a 4,000-seat ballpark planned for the 130-acre racetrack site in Hudson. The stadium will be part of a mixed-use development plan. The effort is spearheaded by Hounds CEO Klint Klaas of Woodbury, a former minor league player who has been a retail developer in the east metro area for about 15 years. After high school baseball at Bloomington Jefferson, Klaas played middle infield at Iowa Western Junior College, then was drafted by the Houston Astros in 1993.
An injury brought an end to his playing career after one season.
The dog track opened in the late 1980s and shut down in the early ’90s. The city of Hudson had been trying for years to find a good, new use for the dog track site.
Klaas assembled a six-man ownership group comprised of baseball-related friends. The remaining five owners either played baseball at Hill Murray High School in Maplewood, or have sons playing there now.
The group originally planned to field a team this summer, but had to delay the starting date to 2020. Klaas and the development team were unable to obtain final city approval of their “final plat” plans in time to get a stadium ready for 2019.
The Northwoods League is the largest collegiate summer baseball league in North America, featuring the best freshman and sophomore players in Division I college baseball. With teams in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, the Dakotas and Canada, the team has continued to grow and currently has 225 teams with 24 teams planned by 2020.
The most high-profile members of the Hounds ownership team are Hill Murray grads and former major leaguers Tom and Rob Quinlan. Tom Quinlan played 16 seasons of professional baseball, including two seasons in the majors with the Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins. After a standout, record-breaking career at the University of Minnesota, Rob Quinlan played seven years in the majors with the L.A. Angels. The Quinlan brothers and Klaas all have sons who play baseball at Hill Murray.
Another member of the ownership group with professional experience is Hill Murray grad Andy Persby. He played baseball and football at University of Minnesota and played in the Twins minor league system. The other partners are Hill Murray baseball alums Steve Fleischhacker of Woodbury and Kevin McMahon, who played college baseball at St. Mary’s College in Winona.
Each owner has his own area of expertise, Klaas notes. The Quinlans are in charge of baseball operations, – including recruiting players and coaches; – Fleischhacker is overseeing ticket sales; McMahon is handling marketing; and Persby is in charge of social media and merchandise. (The team already has souvenirs and logo clothing for sale on the Northwoods League website.)
The River Hounds have begun selling season tickets and “sold quite a few, and some sponsorships in the community,” Klaas says. “There is a great deal of excitement in the Hudson area about the league’s quality of play and the new stadium,” Klaas says.
Persby likes the Northwoods League because “it gives these kids an opportunity to experience what it is like to play minor league baseball. With the high level of play it’s almost identical, except that these guys are not getting paid and working their butts off for free. And it’s a fun brand of baseball,” he says.