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Kevin Schnepf, Published September 21 2010

Schnepf: Local man becomes Northern League's top executive

Josh Buchholz was a Concordia College student delivering pizzas when he first stepped into the locker room of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks’ minor league baseball team.

That was 1996 – before Newman Outdoor Field was a finished product and the RedHawks were using North Dakota State’s old football locker rooms at Dacotah Field.

“I just showed up,” said Buchholz, whose brother was the RedHawks trainer. “I never anticipated it would become a full-time job.”

From traveling with the RedHawks on their first-ever road trip for no pay, Buchholz has worked his way up from equipment manager to sales account executive to director of media relations to director of baseball operations to general manager.

Monday, three days after the RedHawks won their second straight Northern League championship, the 36-year-old Buchholz was named the league’s executive of the year for the second time in three years.

“For a guy with a baseball background, it’s been a lot of fun,” Buchholz said.

Buchholz, who played baseball at Moorhead High School and Concordia College, has experienced all the fun the RedHawks have provided their fans the last 15 years – most notably five Northern League championships.

This summer’s team drew 183,145 fans to Newman Outdoor Field. That’s the highest team attendance in more than eight seasons and the second straight season with 180,000-plus fans.

“We have a winning product, a clean stadium, a family-friendly environment and we’re lucky there’s not a lot of competition here in the summer,” Buchholz said of the franchise’s success on and off the field. “We have reasonable prices and more often than not, the home team is going to win.

“It is a bit of a social event and we realize that. But at the same time, there is some pretty good baseball being played here, too.”

Buchholz is yet another fixture of a stable franchise.

Bruce Thom, who admits he knew nothing about baseball back in 1996, has been the RedHawks owner since Day One. Doug Simunic, whose 61 percent winning percentage says he knows plenty about baseball, has been the RedHawks’ only manager.

And behind the scenes at Newman Outdoor Field, where fans have come to appreciate the antics of the 6-foot-1,

300-pound Simunic, there is Buchholz quietly doing his job. He prefers it that way.

“I always try to stay under the radar,” said Buchholz, who says this week’s league honor is more of a reflection on the organization and not him. “Our entire staff, they are the ones who are making me look good.”

So while Simunic heads back to his home in West Virginia and the players return to their homes scattered across the country, Buchholz started cleaning out the clubhouse and putting Newman Outdoor Field to bed for the winter on Monday.

His wife Kirsten, whom he met at Concordia, and 2½-year-old daughter, Cora, will get to see a lot more of him now. But before he knows it, Buchholz will be on the phone again with Simunic mapping out next year’s roster.

“I can’t complain at all about this job,” Buchholz said. “It’s been a neat ride.”

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549 or at kschnepf@forumcomm.com