When Johnstown Mill Rats’ players run onto the field for the opening game of their inaugural season, they will be sporting crisp new uniforms. Not a spot to be seen on their sunny, yellow ball caps.
They will swing new bats and smack new balls. But, in the world of baseball, the spot on which they will do so is anything but new. It’s a field of history and the young players will know all about it.
The team’s general manager will make sure of it.
“I can’t wait for our players to come to town and to explain the history – walking on the ground where everyone from Babe Ruth to Josh Gibson played,” Brennan Mihalick says. “I’m really excited that we get to be the next chapter in an incredible venue like that.”
The field, at Sargent’s Stadium at the Point, will host the brand new team for the first time May 27 and, Mihalick says, those in attendance can expect to have a good time. Members of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra will perform the national anthem and director and recent Grammy winner James Blachy will be on hand to throw out the first pitch.
“We can’t wait,” Mihalick says. “I don’t think (Johnstowners) have seen a product like the Mill Rats will be providing. We’re really concentrating on making it a family fun event and providing a show on the field.”
A native of the city, Mihalick spent time as manager at North Central Recreation Center in Ebensburg and worked at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial, home of Johnstown Tomahawks.
He says he worked closely with the Tomahawks’ front office and incorporated some of what he learned from the team into the Mill Rats. “They set the bar on what sports in Johnstown should be,” Mihalick says. “The focus is on community relations and creating the ultimate fan experience at the game.”
Mihalick was managing a venue in Minnesota when he came across an announcement of a Prospect League franchise coming to Johnstown. He jumped at the chance to manage the new team.
“It was a great opportunity that I would have been happy to take anywhere, but being able to come home made it that much sweeter,” he says. “I really love the area and I am happy to be back.”
The Prospect League, started in 2008, gives players in college an opportunity to showcase their talents in hopes of advancing to a professional baseball career after graduation. More than 200 Prospect League league alumni have gone on to play professional baseball.
There are 16 teams from as far away as Iowa. The regular season lasts from late May to early August with each team playing 30 home and 30 away games.
The Johnstown franchise is owned by Bill Davidson of Johnstown Family Entertainment.
Mihalick says 29 of his 35 players were either born in Pennsylvania or are playing college ball in the state.
In addition to Mihalick, members of the Mill Rat’s front office include Parker Lynn, field manager; Jeff Raymond, director of game presentation; and Teddy Samples, ticket sales representative.
Raymond, who will announce the games and serve as the on-field emcee, says he is looking forward to “a fantastic first season in Johnstown.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great teams in my career in sports, but this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to be part of building a team from the ground up and it’s really exciting.”
Tickets to see the Mill Rats play range from $8 for general admission to $10 for reserved seating behind home plate.
There are several ticket packages, including box seat season tickets for $250. The package provides box seats to all 30 home games as well as free tickets to any playoff game and exclusive meet-and-greet opportunities with team members.
A flex season pass also is available.
For $50, a lucky resident can throw out the first pitch at a game. Four tickets to the game are included.
The T-shirt plan is $75 for 10 flex tickets and a shirt.
Promotional items available include ball caps, face masks and long- and short-sleeved shirts.
The team name, Johnstown Mill Rats, was chosen through a local naming contest. “People are responding well to the name,” Mihalick says. “If they weren’t a ‘mill rat’ themselves, they had someone who was and it is creating a very special bond.
“We’ve been getting a very warm reception. People are very excited."