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'It's uniquely Detroit Lakes:' Johnson looks back on The Club's inaugural regular season ahead of playoffs

Detroit Lakes Baseball Club player-manager Brandon Johnson looks back on the goals he set out for the inaugural season. Despite some tough losses, it's hard not to be positive about the future of The Club and where the team is trending in on a communal level.

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Detroit Lakes Baseball Club first baseman Zack Oistad is splashed with water at home plate after hitting his first home run of the year during The Club's 12-2 loss against Dilworth Raildogs at Washington Ballpark in Detroit Lakes on July 24, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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Detroit Lakes Baseball Club player-manager Brandon Johnson set out goals at the beginning of the season, and almost none of them had to do with wins and losses.

The Club finished the season 3-8 and in third place in the Red River Amateur Baseball League, which clinched a first-round playoff matchup against the Marble Mallards on July 31 in Grand Rapids.

“In terms of a (playoff) run, our first matchup against the Marble Mallards is pretty tough,” Johnson said. “They’re a pretty solid team. They beat Ada, and they have some guys that can hit the ball out of the park. They’re going to have some pretty decent pitching, too. If we play our game, we should be able to put some things together and make some noise.”

The Club is set for its first double-elimination playoff tournament after an up-and-down regular season. Like the first 11 games, winning and losing will be second to experience gained.

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Detroit Lakes Baseball Club designated hitter Tristen Wimmer high-fives Trevor Tappe after Tappe and Casey Ness scored on a Justin Hoskins double in the fifth inning of The Club's 8-2 win over the Erskine Comets at Washington Ballpark in Detroit Lakes on June 24, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“I’m just looking for us to put together our best baseball of the year,” Johnson said. “I think we’re a much better team than we’ve played at times. We have to sharpen up defensively, especially with the mistakes we’ve consistently made. We’ve shown we have good bats. We just have to get them to show up. We just have to lean into the guys we can lean into for pitching.”


The Club doesn’t like losing, but it knows this season was the first step in a long-term project. Laying the foundation for the coming years is crucial in establishing longevity.

“Every goal we set at the beginning of the year we achieved,” Johnson said. “We took third in the league, so we avoided the play-in game. In terms of relationships in the community, we had every home game sponsored. Each one was a different business. We wanted to reach a point where people were proud to attach their names to what we’re doing on the field. That meant a lot to me.”

We saw more and more people engaged with what we’re doing on social media. I saw people wearing Club apparel around town at different sporting events. Our goal of establishing ourselves as being part of this community was accomplished.”

Becoming a brand

To say baseball is a part of Johnson’s life is an understatement, making The Club a passion project worth the time and effort. He also coaches a local 15U baseball team while staying involved in the local baseball scene in other ways.

Johnson views The Club as an extension of the Detroit Lakes’ baseball community instead of a separate entity.

“It goes back to the overarching theme of The Club,” Johnson said. “The reason we didn’t want to create something brand new was because we wanted to fit into the DL baseball community. Everybody is part of this. We hope that this team is viewed as a place kids can look up to playing for when they’re older if they want to. We view this baseball community in DL as a family, and it’s continuing to grow due to the efforts of Phil Kirchner and Terry Eiter.”

Growing an amateur baseball team has a similar feeling to an expansion team in professional sports. Detroit Lakes graduates who had an interest in playing amateur baseball in recent years migrated to other teams in the surrounding area. One of Johnson’s hopes is that local talent stays local.

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Detroit Lakes Baseball Club player/manager Brandon Johnson slides into home plate during The Club's 15-5 loss against the Midway Snurdbirds at Washington Ballpark in Detroit Lakes on July 22, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“I’m not looking to poach guys,” Johnson said. “You look at a guy like Jordan Tucker, who’s played for Vergas–he probably doesn’t have a reason to leave them. Bradly (Sweirs) would be a guy we’d hope to have play for us. Then you hope it trickles down from there where kids get excited to play with the guys they played with in high school.”


Johnson also hopes to see a more consistent schedule next season.

“You don’t want to look too far ahead into the future, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited,” Johnson said. “We have to have more games from a baseball and a bigger picture standpoint. It will help the guys on the field with some of the mistakes we’re making if they get more repetitions. If we have more games, it will give people a consistent thing to do in our area. If people know they can count on us having one home game a week, I think it would really help with consistency.”

Feelin’ the love

Before the season started, Johnson was nervous about The Club’s reception in the community. It took one night to put those fears in the past.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the support,” Johnson said. “In our first game against Hawley, I got many compliments from people in our baseball community… I was blown away by the outpouring of support, which comes in different ways. There’s that poetry walk in Detroit Lakes, and they made a post on their own telling people to come out and watch The Club. None of us reached out to them, but they saw it as a cool thing for people in our community to check out, which was one of the coolest things.”

Johnson hopes the goals for the Club become more about wins and losses than growth and perspective. For the time being, he will look back on this first year and think of how far his team has come in seven months.

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Tristan Wimmer, left, Club third baseman, crosses home plate and high-fives teammate Justin Hoskins after hitting the first home run in Detroit Lakes Baseball Club history in the team's 9-5 victory over the Hawley Hawks during the Club's home opener at Washington Ballpark in Detroit Lakes on June 1, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“We had guys that came up to me and said, ‘If you would’ve had a team a month earlier before I committed, I would’ve played,’” Johnson said. “I think there’s an element of people wanting to see what happened in this first year before deciding to play. We have the guys that came out, and you see cool things like a guy in Michael Achterling, who has never played competitive baseball in his life, getting a chance to DH against Hawley and going 2-for-3. Those are some of the best things we’ll remember from this team.”

On a personal level, The Club opened another door for Johnson to say connected to the game of baseball.

“The world doesn’t revolve around baseball for many people except myself and my family,” Johnson said. “I want to work hard to make sure there’s baseball to play and watch in this community. I think that’s why we work so hard to make sure we’re doing this the right way. I love seeing the younger guys embrace it and do their own thing with it. When I got to catch for Jon Tolbert for the first time in 12 years, my childhood best friend, that was awesome. It’s uniquely Detroit Lakes, and I love being part of it.”

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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