Unseasonable temperatures, abundant rain and a sluggish economy might be things we remember about the summer of 2009.
The National Weather Service has reported this summer is on pace to be the coldest on record.
The DNR Forestry Office in Brainerd measured 3.7 inches of rain in June, 7.01 in July and more than 13 inches this summer.
Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers owner-general manager Joel Sutherland, watching the action early in the season, said the team had a good first year. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Crow Wing County's unemployment rate was 9.4 percent in June before falling to 8.3 in July.
Despite those negative factors, the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers had what owner-general manager Joel Sutherland calls "a good year," in its first season in the Northwoods League.
The team finished .500 despite many injuries and averaged 554 fans, 128 more than their predecessors, the Brainerd Blue Thunder, averaged in 2008.
The Lunkers offered promotions every home game and had Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew as their opening-night guest. Other celebrities appearing at Mills Field included Nickelodeon character Dora the Explorer, William Hung from American Idol, Marvel Comic character Spiderman and former Minnesota Viking Matt Blair.
"Mother Nature was not a friend of the Northwoods League once again this year, that's a fact," Sutherland said. "We'd have 400 at a game and three-quarters of them would be in blankets. You'd look up and swear there's a football game going on. There's nothing you can do about that except appreciate everybody that's out there.
"The people that were out there had a great time, I would say. It was a good year."
Will the Lunkers be back? They are Brainerd's fifth wood bat franchise dating back to 1994. Sutherland said he "can't see (the Lunkers not returning) as being an option."
"We're sitting down with the city the next couple of weeks because the (Mills Field) lease has expired," he said. "We need to sit down and take a look at things.
"I think (the city's) been happy with the way things have transpired at Mills Field. I think they're happy with us, we're certainly happy with the city. It's been a great start. I can't imagine a scenario where (not returning) would happen.
"There's some momentum. Nights that are cold is one thing, rain is another, yet we still averaged 554 for the year, and that's legit, butts in seats, season tickets, that's paid seating, that's rock solid.
"This year we have a whole offseason, a full year, to get after it, instead of virtually February, March, April and May. That hopefully will help us do better at the gate."
Sutherland also discussed the following:
A. "For the first year that promotional schedule was outstanding. Killebrew opening night was phenomenal, the luncheon was a great way to start the season. We had Hung and Dora, bat night giveaways, glove nights, it was what we wanted it to be."
A. "The promotional schedule worked, the things we did between innings worked. People realized, 'Hey, you know what, it was more than a ballgame. It was a night out.' We might have gotten beat but people were leaving with smiles.
"A couple times at the end of the game, people stood and clapped. There were some great things, the field, the attitude, the atmosphere at the ballpark was real nice."
A. "We've got to move the fences in. I might be wrong but I think there were six home runs hit out there, there might have been five. I was watching the Yankees and Red Sox the other day and a guy mashed one to deep left-center and the sign on the wall said 387 feet. It's 406 (to center) here, 325 down the lines, 370 in the gaps, with a big wall.
"It's tough for our players. ... Scouts look at our guys and say we don't have anybody on the team with power. I would argue that until the cows come home. We had guys hit it 370 feet and get nothing for it.
"If you're down by a run going into the ninth inning you want to know you can tie it up with one swing. History indicates you can't do that at Mills."
"Losing (Andrew) Gudmunsen was tough, losing (Zach Kenyon), (Joey) Van Cleave. From that standpoint 34-34 probably wasn't too bad but it was a little disappointing.
"If you look at how many pitchers we lost during the course of the year to injury, we had to reload. It's a good record considering what we went through.
"There are a lot of ways to measure success, gate, wins, losses. I think another way of doing it is the experience people had out there and I think it's a much better experience and we certainly call it a successful year."
A. "We got new rest rooms, which was absolutely outstanding. The concession area was solid, but I think we want to make some improvements to that next year. Cosmetically, there's things we can do at the ballpark.
"The staff out there was great, everybody from the mayor (James Wallin) to (parks and recreation director) Wayne Mooney and all those guys out there. That was so appreciated. Day in, day out, that was excellent.
"We'll maybe look at doing some things for kids, making it a little more organized, a kids area."
A. "Very difficult, it was tough, a lot of miles to put on. It was tiring.
"Games between (Brainerd and St. Cloud) were difficult. I thought I would be able to overcome it. I did it one year with Alexandria (when he owned the Beetles). The bottom line is what makes these teams successful is the emotion you put into them. When you've got two of your teams going at it, it makes it a little difficult.
"I think (team vice president) Marc Jerzak was at 51 games, maybe 54. He did an outstanding job. Another plus was the staff we had out there, Eric Grant on the PA and music, the interns, a lot of people made it happen."
"We want this to be a franchise the Brainerd Lakes Area embraces as their team that goes to Madison to play, as their team when it goes to LaCrosse, to Rochester and Green Bay, not just a team playing at Mills Field. It took a couple years in St. Cloud to do that. Our intent is to do whatever we can to make that happen here."
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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