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Kevin Schnepf, Published May 24 2012

Schnepf: Local couple sticks with RedHawks

Fargo

It was about this time of the year back in 1996 when the skeptics were as abundant as the mosquitoes invading the Fargo-Moorhead summer air. They strongly believed those skeeters would survive much longer than a newly formed minor league baseball team.

“There will never be enough people to support it,” was their main argument. “Too many people go to the lakes in the summer.”

Well, meet Stan and Una Mae Thurlow – one couple who has dispelled that myth. They have owned a lake cabin in Minnesota since the 1960s. They have also have been season-ticket holders ever since the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks brought minor league baseball back to the metro area 17 years ago.

“I guess we could’ve said, ‘We’re not going to the RedHawks because we’re going to the lakes,’ ” said Stan Thurlow, a 65-year-old who has cherished baseball since he was a kid. “But we do both. I know a lot of people who have lake places and still go to the games.”

So have plenty of other people.

Bucking the trend in which interest fades over the years for minor league franchises, the RedHawks have attracted a consistent following at Newman Outdoor Field – where they will play their first home game of their 17th season tonight against Sioux Falls.

During their first 16 seasons, the RedHawks have averaged more than 3,500 fans per game at Newman Field.

And for the 17th straight season, Stan and Una Mae will be sitting in Section J, Row 9 in seats 1 and 2 for tonight’s 7 p.m. home opener. They’ll start tailgating at 4 p.m. in the parking lot east of the right-field fence.

Their allegiance to the RedHawks, which has led them on road trips to Duluth, Schaumburg, Winnipeg, Gary, Kansas City and St. Paul, started Nov. 16, 1995. That’s when Stan paid $265 for his first season ticket. He still has the Visa card receipt to prove it.

“The RedHawks has been a great addition to the F-M area,” said Stan, who paid $325 for this year’s season ticket. “The RedHawks are not everyone’s cup of tea. But it’s just another piece of the puzzle that helps this area become a full-fledged metropolitan community.”

Minor league baseball was part of the F-M community back in the 1950s. Stan was an 11-year-old kid who lived in north Fargo, only a couple of blocks away from Barnett Field – home of the F-M Twins.

“It was a great atmosphere,” said Stan, who attended games where a hot dog cost 25 cents and a pop cost 10 cents. “Even the games I didn’t make, you could hear the roar of the crowd from our backyard.”

In 1953 when Fargo’s own Roger Maris played for the F-M Twins, Stan’s future wife was a 3-year-old watching her father umpire baseball games in northern Minnesota.

“I would shag balls for 25 cents a ball,” Una Mae recalled. “It was great fun.”

Stan and Una Mae eventually raised two boys. And what they called perfect timing, the boys were grown and out of the house when minor league baseball returned to Fargo-Moorhead in 1996.

RedHawks games replaced the Knights of Columbus fastpitch softball games they used to religiously attend at Mickelson Park.

“This is what I’ve been looking for,” Stan said of the RedHawks arrival in 1996. “It was a perfect fit. And it was far better than becoming a couch potato. It’s a diversion. It’s fun. ”

So when their 17th straight summer of RedHawks baseball begins tonight, Stan will most likely bite into his favorite Hi-Ho burger, and Una Mae will nibble on some cotton candy and a softshell taco.

They’ll watch center fielder Nic Jackson track down fly balls – in about the same location where Una Mae once lived in a trailer while attending North Dakota State University.

Stan and Una Mae will also reacquaint themselves with Kathy the beer lady – yet another longtime fixture at Newman Outdoor Field.


Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor

Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

or at kschnepf@forumcomm.com