In the years before the National Park Service was formed, the Flathead National Forest Reserve, which included the land that would later become Glacier National Park, was supervised by Fremont N. Haines.
According to the book “First Rangers,” by C.W. Guthrie, Haines was an Easterner with no knowledge of forestry, but he was eager to learn and knew he needed good men working with him to manage the vast forest reserve.
In those early days, Haines employed a precursor to modern park rangers, then called forest range riders, made up mostly of men moonlighting at the job.
“The first of them, the ones that made good were rugged and honorable,” writes Guthrie. “They had some power, some pay and some glory… They were the law, the trailblazer, the fireman. They lived and labored in an Eden, and always another spirit stirring challenge lay just ahead. How grand it must have been!”
These words, and the sliver of history they point to, provided the inspiration for the name and branding of the Flathead Valley’s Pioneer League Baseball team. On Jan. 19 the team, operated by Ridge Run Baseball, revealed they will be known as the Glacier Range Riders.
“What I love about this is that no other brand in all of sports has adopted the national parks as inspiration,” said Jason Klein, partner with sports marketing agency Brandiose. Brandiose was behind the rebranding of the Missoula Paddleheads baseball team in 2019, and is known for other popular, if unorthodox, minor league baseball branding including the Rocket City Trash Pandas and the DubSea Seal Slingers in Seattle.
“The brand is really inspired by the founding of the national park service, the golden age when it was just getting started at the turn of the 20th century,” said Klein. “The National Park Service today is very educational and scientific, which we love, but we were inspired by a much more rugged version of adventure that really goes back to the founding years.”
In 1900, Fred Herrig was designated as the first range rider in the Flathead Reserve. Herrig had served as a Rough Rider under Teddy Roosevelt and his friendship with the then-governor earned him a recommendation for the position.
Herrig patrolled the forest west of the North Fork Flathead River to the Whitefish Divide, but as the only range rider in the district, he was also assigned to keep an eye on the land east of the river. Herrig recruited other range riders, including Frank Liebig, who patrolled the Glacier district. By 1902, U.S. Forestry Chief Gifford Pinchot redesignated range riders as forest rangers.
“These wilderness defenders protected and preserved the area from poachers, wildfire and timber thieves during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency,” stated the Range Riders press release. “Their rough-and-tumble role and characteristic toughness influenced the creation of the Range Rider mascot.”
The Range Riders logo includes a bear named “Huck” riding in one of the iconic red busses that ferry tourists along Going-to-the-Sun Road each summer. A yet-unnamed second mascot, a mountain goat in a park ranger uniform, was also announced by the team, with Klein adding that there might be a community naming contest in the future.
In another nod to the National Park Service, Klein said the Range Riders are the first professional sports team to use the government-issued shade of green as its primary color. Red, black and sienna are the secondary colors.
“We knew right from the beginning we wanted to celebrate and tell the story of Glacier National Park,” Klein said. “There’s so much you can do with that source material and everything from the site to the colors to the uniforms will all reinforce that story.”
In addition to the name and logo announcement, the team provided updated designs for Flathead Field, the new state-of-the-art stadium currently under construction along U.S. Highway 93 north of Kalispell.
When finished, the stadium will have 2,500 permanent seats with a total capacity of around 4,000. The venue will include 12 luxury suites, a restaurant, concession stands, a mercantile team shop and a 15,000-square-foot training facility.
“We hope to honor and represent one of the Treasure State’s crown jewels — the Flathead community and its beautiful national park — by providing a family-friendly atmosphere with championship-quality baseball,” said Ridge Run Baseball vice president Chris Kelly in the release.
The Range Riders will open their season on May 23 against the Rocky Mountain Vibes in Colorado before hosting the Billings Mustangs on June 14 at Flathead Field. Tickets can be purchased online at gorangeriders.com
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