By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
MANKATO — After selling gasoline for the Stillwater-based Croix Oil Co. for nearly 30 years, Mark Ogren has decided to get into the baseball business.
More specifically, Ogren has opted to buy the Mankato MoonDogs summer collegiate baseball team from Joe Schwei and join the Northwoods League as a franchise owner. The sale of the MoonDogs to the Ogren, the owner and president of Croix Oil since 1995, was announced Thursday.
“I’m a huge sports fan and I’ve always been intrigued by the Northwoods League,” Ogren said. “I know a guy that used to own a couple of franchises and we got to talking about it. He knew Joe, so I approached him and we were able to cut a deal.”
Ogren’s first priority will be learning how the business of owning the MoonDogs works. To that end, he has decided to retain Schwei as a consultant for three years and plans to keep general manager Kyle Mrozek and assistant general manager Greg Weis in their positions for the upcoming season.
Schwei said the timing was right for the sale because of his growing family.
“I’m at a point in my life where it would be nice to have a few more summer nights free,” said Schwei, who begins work as the development director of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation on Monday. “We have a 2-year-old at home and another baby on the way, so I thought this was a good time.
“The key for me is that Mark loves baseball and he’s been a very successful business man. After 11 years as owner, I think it’s time for new blood, new ideas, new energy ... I believe Mark fits that bill.”
Ogren and Schwei began talking about the sale in September 2012 and finally had an agreement in place after Christmas. Both Mrozek and Weis have met with Ogren and believe the transition to the new owner will be a smooth one.
“We met him before the sale was complete and visited (Franklin Rogers Park) together,” Mrozek said. “We turned the lights on at about 6 p.m. It’s a pretty cool-looking place when the lights are reflecting off a blanket of snow.
“Mark is a big fan of the game, so for him it’s going to be a fun business to get into. He’s indicated he wants to get to know us and the community and kind of get a feel for what’s going on.”
Schwei took over the franchise in 2001, turning the Mankato Mashers into the Mankato MoonDogs. The franchise has had more than 400,000 fans come through the gates since then and has had six players go on to play Major League Baseball.
In 2011, Greater Mankato Growth honored the MoonDogs with the Distinguished Business Award for having a positive impact on the community. Ogren indicated the success of the franchise is one of the reasons he bought it.
“This is an opportunity for me to do something really exciting,” Ogren said. “I like the proximity to the Twin Cities and it’s already an established franchise.
“The MoonDogs have very loyal fans, great sponsors and a nice relationship with the city of Mankato. I don’t anticipate any major changes going in.”