Professional baseball is coming to Oconomowoc next year.
A ownership team consisting of Waukesha County natives Tom Kelenic, Sonny Bando, Tim Neubert, and Tony Bryant announced Monday the team will be ready to play in the American Association of Professional Baseball in the 2022 season.
“I’ve think we’ve created a lot of buzz out there,” says team CEO Tom Kelenic. “It’s been something that we have been working on for the past four years. We felt that, looking at the overall area, what would be our next move. The rich history in the Oconomowoc area and baseball; we thought that getting into a competitive league would be not only good for us, but good for the community and move forward with our development.”
The decision to play in the American Association had nothing to do with the Franklin-based Milwaukee Milkmen, who have been a part of the league for several years. “We evaluated many different leagues throughout the country,” says Kelenic, “and with the pandemic it gave us more time to make the best decision for our model. We knew that this project would not be TIF funded or being in any kind of partnership financially with municipalities, so we had to fund it ourselves. That in itself kind of narrows down the choices of what league you would go in. By far this was the best league for our model to join.”
While players and coaches are still needed, plans are in place to build the team’s new home in the Pabst Farms part of Oconomowoc, right off I-94 and Highway 67. “It will take up about 10 months to complete the facility, which is a turf baseball field,” says Kelenic. “A scoreboard very similar to the one down at where the Brewers plays. It will seat 3,500 people, and it will have a 38-thousand square foot building attached to the ballpark that will house next level sports performance and Spider batting gloves.”
Kelenic adds the facility will also be able to host a number of other non-baseball events. “We’ve got approved for concerts, we’ve got approved to do food truck events, movies at the ballpark up on the jumbotron. And with some of the connections that we have from an ownership perspective there will definitely be soccer, lacrosse, possibly rugby; all the sports that we can get in there to let the people utilize it.”
The focus now for the team is to come up with its name, with a contest taking place. “I believe they have until May (28) to throw their name in the hat, what they want the team to be called,” says Kelenic. “They receive tickets for opening day, they get to throw out the first pitch, and there will be a merchandise swag bag that the winner of the contest will get.”
Kelenic adds success for him means a winning first season in the league, and having the ballpark filled with people for every game. Overall, he is proud of the work done so far to gather interest for the new team. “I think with our Facebook page and social media we’ve got a lot of followings. Waukesha County, Jefferson County, because quite frankly there’s nothing like it in the county. Coming out of this pandemic the people are going to be ready to live their lives like they used to.”
Tom Kelenic was a guest on Wisconsin’s Morning News with more on the new team. Listen in the player above.