THUNDER BAY -- Baseball will be back at Port Arthur Stadium if Brad Jorgenson has anything to say about it.
The Thunder Bay Border Cats owner on Sunday said he’s already begun selling season ticket packages for 2015 and has no intention of walking away from a Northwoods League team that averaged just 669 fans a night in the stands and finished with the second-worst overall record.
“There’s no question we have to put a better product on the field,” Jorgenson said. “The fans in Thunder Bay, which are some of the most diehard fans in the league, deserve better than what they’ve had the last three years.”
It’s actually been a rough six-year stretch for the team.
Since winning it all in 2008, the Cats have posted a win-loss record of 163-254, only twice in that stretch compiling more than 30 wins in a single season.
The Border Cats, plagued by a series of one-and-done managers, are coming off back-to-back 49-loss campaigns and Jorgenson said without the wins, it’s hard to convince fans to head out to Port Arthur Stadium and buy in.
“Our record that we’ve had, not only this year, but the last three years, is unacceptable.”
Jorgenson said retaining managers or finding more senior prospects is easier said than done, especially in a more remote community like Thunder Bay.
However, the neither the team nor manager Johnny Hernandez have committed to a 2015 return at this point.
“For them to be away from their families for three months is a difficult thing. But there’s no question we have to look for that and find that, most importantly ones who are well connected. The recruiting is paramount,” Jorgenson said.
In 2014 the Cats essentially had to rebuild a rotation from scratch, after injuries kept many top prospects at home for the summer.
Jorgenson isn’t making excuses.
“Every team in the league has those issues, so we can’t fall back on that.”
Jorgenson, who bought the team in 2008, says he keeps hearing how difficult it is to entice top prospects to head north of the border, but he loudly disagrees.
“That’s not the case. Players love coming here, if you talk to players that have been here. And we get players from all over the U.S. and Canada and I’ve never run into that issue.”
Assistant general manager Bryan Graham said credit to the players, who never quit under trying circumstances.
It all came down to pitching, he added.
“I think we had the lineup to score enough runs to compete in this league most nights, but our pitching, our starting staff and our bullpen, was too thin,” Graham said.
“it is a crapshoot sometimes. You sign these kids in the offseason and they go into their college seasons in the spring and you don’t know what you’re going to get.”
Oftentimes they throw too many innings and are shut down before they even get to Thunder Bay, or they’re severely limited and have to go home early when they reach their limit.
And there are always injuries to deal with.
“Hopefully sometimes you can overcome that and find some more kids so you have more depth. This year that wasn’t the case,” Graham said.
For a second straight year the Cats gave up the most runs in the Northwoods League, albeit 69 fewer than 2013. They were middle-of-the-pack when it came to run support.
Hernandez said it was frustrating, but in the end player development is what the league is all about and the players definitely learned a lot this season.
He himself learned a lesson or two.
“When you struggle, that’s when I think you really find out who you are and who your team is.”
Say what you will about their talent level, one thing this team wasn’t was a lineup of quitters. They gave it their all every night, which is all Hernandez asked for.
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