Sports

Ridge Run Baseball Signs More Players, Sells First Tickets

The new Pioneer League Club is heading towards its inaugural season with continued progress on a new stadium and an upcoming branding reveal

By Micah Drew
Baseball player Mike Knell of UMass Dartmouth plays against Western Connecticut on May 7, 2021. Photo by Kyle Prudhomme

Until last week, Mike Knell didn’t know the Flathead Valley existed. He’s never been to Montana, and has only heard stories about the Last Best Place from a friend who recently moved to Bozeman.  

That all changed when he saw his phone flash “Montana” for an unknown number while awaiting a call about his future in baseball. 

“It threw me off because I didn’t know there was a team out there,” Knell said. “I always wanted to play professional baseball, so I was ready to go anywhere.”

Knell is the latest signee for the Flathead Valley’s new Pioneer League baseball team, currently called Ridge Run Baseball. 

The 6-3 third baseman hails from Dennis, Mass., and recently finished a five-year career at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he was a two-time team captain. He spent the summer playing with the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod Baseball League.

“It was a really cool experience to spend five years building my baseball character,” Knell said. “It gave me time to experience a whole new level of competition, and now I know I can compete at the next one.”

During his career at UMass Dartmouth, Knell hit .289 with 31 home runs, 116 RBI and had a .529 slugging percentage.  

Knell attended an independent league tryout in New Jersey the week following Thanksgiving and said he put together a solid performance there. His discussions with one of the coaches gave him confidence that a call from a minor league team was in the works. 

When it came, the call itself was short, and whether from excitement or a poor connection, Knell misheard the name of the team that offered him his first professional contract. He tweeted and wrote for the U-Mass Dartmouth athletics site about his excitement joining the “Flat Valley Ridge Run.”

“It really means a lot that they signed me on a new team,” he said. “It shows they expect to compete even though we’re brand new. I plan to help them really become a staple in the league in our first season.”

Along with Knell, Ridge Run Baseball has signed pitchers Drew Clavenna, Colton Williams, and Pierce Smith; and outfielders Cole Warken and Griffen Keller. 

Rendering of Ridge Run Baseball Stadium. Image by DHM Design

Fans have already begun to flock to the new team. On Dec. 17, Ridge Run Baseball began selling season tickets for next year’s home games. 

According to general manager Erik Moore, more than 100 deposits were placed in the first two hours. 

“We were so excited when the first one came through on email,” Moore said. “We just sat there hitting refresh over and over, just so thrilled to be able to get tickets sold.”

Construction continues uninterrupted on the Ridge Run Field stadium above Highway 93 north of Kalispell. Once complete, the stadium will have 2,500 permanent seats with a total capacity of 4,000.

“We are starting to build up instead of digging down which is nice to see,” Moore said. “We still lose some sleep at night with the crazy timeframe, but it’ll be ready.”

The team will spend three weeks on the road this spring before hosting the Billings Mustangs for its home opener on June 14.

In addition to hosting 48 home games during the season, Ridge Run Field will serve as an open events space for weddings, meetings, concerts and outdoor movies. Moore also said the fully synthetic playing surface can be converted to a football field.  

The top question Moore has been fielding since the team was announced is when the official name and logo will be released. Moore confirmed that Ridge Run Baseball contracted with notable sports marketing company Brandiose, which was the firm behind the Missoula Paddleheads redesign along with the wildly popular, if somewhat unorthodox, Rocket City Trash Pandas and the Amarillo Sod Poodles. 

Moore said the name, logo and mascot have been chosen and will be unveiled in January. The name will not be associated with a specific town in the Flathead Valley, adding to Ridge Run’s goal of uniting the community.  

“I’m just really excited to be building something new that everybody is happy about,” Moore said. “It’s already bringing people together — nobody has anything to complain about. It doesn’t get more unifying and American than baseball.”

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