Development of Brandon baseball franchise continues

Brandon’s newest high-caliber, Expedition League baseball franchise is hosting a naming contest, hiring staff, scouting players and seeking candidates for ownership through the winter months.

Who will you be cheering for this summer? The Wheat City Wonders? The Brandon Bullheads? The Wheat City Whiskey Jacks? The Brandon Bison? The Wheat City Threshermen?

Those nicknames are the five finalists for the expansion Expedition League baseball team set to take to the field in the city next summer.

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League president Steve Wagner said he was blown away with the response from the Brandon community and after careful consideration, they have narrowed all the suggestions to five possible names.

“We are thrilled with the level of response and enthusiasm from fans in suggesting the Brandon team name,” said Wagner. “It wasn’t easy to narrow down the choices to the five finalists since many great team name suggestions were submitted. The finalists are fun names and each of them have a unique connection to this wonderful part of Canada.”

Fans can vote on the name by going to the team’s Facebook page (Brandon Manitoba Expedition League Team), Twitter page (@ManitobaTeam), and the Expedition League website:

Wagner said fans will have a little more than a week to vote, with the winner being announced right before Christmas. He added there should be some other news to report around that time as well.

That likely won’t be news of an owner, however. Wagner says he’s still in discussion with several local parties, but he won’t have anything finalized before 2019.

“We have nothing specific yet, but we have a few folks we’re still talking with,” he said. “We’re getting closer on that potential ownership.”

In the meantime, Wagner continues to own the franchise and is proceeding on several fronts to ensure Brandon has a competitive team to cheer for next year.

This process includes the hiring of coach Grant Hamilton from Montana State Billings. Wagner is close to hiring an assistant coach, as well as narrowing the field of candidates for the team’s first general manager.

“We should have the (GM) in place before the end of the year or right after,” said Wagner. “We have some really good people in the running and I’m impressed with the talent pool.”

As for players, Wagner is already hard at work lining up players from across North America. The Expedition League is a developmental ball league that targets college ball players to help emulate minor league ball in preparation for a jump to the professional ranks.

“We’re already working on players and we have upwards of 20 players who have committed and signed contracts with our team,” says Wagner. “We’re going to be sending out a press release on that soon.

“I want to do that in conjunction with the unveiling of our name and our logo and I think that will help the fans connect to the team,” he added. “And then we’ll start to introduce players into the community.”

Wagner added he is still working with colleges to get more pitchers signed, as there are some special requirements for them before they can suit up.

“How it works for collegiate pitchers is you get collegiate coaches who commit to sending us players, but they’re not sure which ones and how many innings they’re going to allow us to use,” said Wagner.

The Expedition League teams play a 64-game season beginning on May 24, meaning we’re just five months away from the Brandon franchise’s inaugural year.

The 2019 season will include 10-member teams from North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Brandon.

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