By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
Mankato MoonDogs general manager Kyle Mrozek was a bit nervous early on Thursday when he considered how the cold weather might affect turnout for his meet-the-new-owner event at Tav on the Ave.
It turns out he needn’t have worried. With all of the other Mankato sporting events canceled due to weather, a crowd of more than 100 people attended the meet-and-greet. Former owner Joe Schwei was in attendance, and even he was impressed.
“This is a pretty good showing,” he said as he looked around. “Usually you only see this many people wearing MoonDogs attire in here right after a game.”
The reason for the high attendance was a chance to meet new owner Mark Ogren, who bought the team from Schwei earlier this winter and is looking forward to the new venture.
“It’s going to be my new hobby, but we’re also going to treat it like a business,” said Ogren, who is the president of Stillwater-based Croix Oil Company. “It’s totally different from what I’ve been doing.
“In the oil business, people buy gasoline because they have to, not because they want to. With the MoonDogs, it’s a lot more fun. Everybody wants to go to the ballgame.”
One of Ogren’s first orders of business was to do a little reshuffling of the MoonDogs’ front office. Mrozek has been promoted to vice president of the organization, and Greg Weis, last year’s assistant general manager, will now become the fulltime GM.
In addition, Ogren has added two positions. His son Scott, who is in the process of earning a master’s degree in business administration from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, has been named Director of the MoonDogs.
Kaylee Kulich, previously a MoonDogs media relations intern, is now the fulltime coordinator of marketing and media relations.
“I think adding to the staff is a good move,” Mrozek said. “The organization has grown a lot the last couple of years, but the front office hasn’t. This will allow us to keep moving forward.”
Schwei, who will remain with the team as a consultant, believes the franchise is in very capable hands.
“I feel very good about Mark Ogren and his approach to the MoonDogs,” Schwei said. “He’s asking a lot of questions; he really wants to learn the business. This is not a toy to him, he wants it to be successful.”
Ogren said he has no major concerns heading into his first season.
“If we were starting from scratch with all new people to get this thing off the ground, I’d probably be very nervous,” he said. “But with all these experienced people in place, I feel very good about it.”
Mrozek, who seemed genuinely happy that the event dodged a bullet with the weather, had a word of encouragement to all those attendance:
“I know it’s cold out there, but just remember there’s only 119 days until the first pitch for the MoonDogs.”