Owning a baseball club - a child's dream come trueWhen Mike Rosenzweig heard that the Duluth Huskies baseball club was for sale before the 2011 season, the Duluth stockbroker sprang into action.
By: Thomas Olsen, Duluth Budgeteer News
When Mike Rosenzweig heard that the Duluth Huskies baseball club was for sale before the 2011 season, the Duluth stockbroker sprang into action.
He recruited longtime family friend Andy Karon, the owner of a Superior scrap metal business, and the two closed on a deal to purchase the team, just two weeks before the season began.
“I’ve always been a big, big, big baseball fan ever since I was a really little kid, and I always thought that someday it would be nice to own a baseball team,” Rosenzweig said.
A longtime Huskies (as well as Duluth-Superior Dukes before that) season-ticketholder, Rosenzweig said he was set on buying the team, but needed to find at least one partner.
He found Karon, who admitted that he had never been to a Huskies game before buying the team.
“I’m a fan of baseball and I’m a fan of community and I’m a fan of an opportunity to maybe make some money,” Karon said. “I trusted Mike: his attention to detail, his groundwork and determining if this was a sound business idea, if he thought the pieces were in place to succeed in Duluth with this team.”
The collegiate summer team was owned at its inception in 2003 by Bobby McCarthy, a Florida restaurateur who traveled to Duluth every summer. Rosenzweig said he felt strongly that the team should have local ownership.
“So many times entities come to Duluth, get started, and then leave,” he said. “We’ve lost because of not having that local ownership. I look at the industries that we used to have in town. Somebody comes in and buys them out, and all of sudden they’re out of town.”
Taking over just two weeks before the season didn’t allow the new owners many opportunities to incorporate their ideas into the business.
“It was the worst time to possibly do this because we had no impact on the year,” Karon said. “Everything’s already in place, the schedule is out, the promotions are set.”
This season, Rosenzweig and Karon are getting the full experience of ownership and enjoying the team’s success on the field. The Huskies are locked in a tight playoff battle atop the North Division of the 16-team Northwoods League, hoping to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth time in franchise history and first time since 2007.
“Attendance is up,” Karon said. “Enjoyment at the ballpark — which, of course, is hard to put into words — seems to be much greater than it had been in recent years. The fans seem to be engaged and enjoying the success of the team and the trials and tribulations of the team.”
Local ownership allows for community involvement and marketing that previously was not possible, according to Rosenzweig and Karon. They opened a new year-round office downtown and stepped up advertising
efforts and mascot
“Having lived in town all these years that Andy and I have, you get to know a lot of people and they want to see us succeed,” Rosenzweig said. “By coming out to ballpark or becoming a sponsor or doing some business with us, we all benefit. I think that local ownership proves that we want this team to stay here. We don’t want it to leave.”
Huskies games offer a big boost to West Duluth, typically bringing more than 1,000 people to historic Wade Stadium about 35 times a year and offering dozens of seasonal jobs.
But the owners aren’t yet content, saying they want to continue to build relationships with businesses and community members.
“I sat down with Andy (before buying the team) and we believed that this team and its potential here in Duluth was being underutilized,” Rosenzweig said. “Fourteen months isn’t long to own a business. … If all goes well, some years down the road we will see the fruits of our labor.”
Fans have only a few opportunities left to catch the team in action this summer. The Huskies have just five home games remaining over the final two weeks of the regular season, although playoff baseball could be returning to the Wade.