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The Growlers Bring Baseball Back to Kalamazoo

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Kalamazoo Growlers

There's a new energy in the air around Kalamazoo and-thanks to a new team at Homer Stryker Field-a few more baseballs, too. It's been four years since Kalamazoo had its own minor league team, so the inaugural season of the Kalamazoo Growlers is something to celebrate.

A former minor league player himself, Brian Colopy has also served as the general manager of the Battle Creek Bombers team for four years. This year he will oversee The Growlers as well.

Being close by, he said the Battle Creek club was aware that Kalamazoo's previous team, The Kalamazoo Kings, no longer existed.

"We've been in the backyard for a while," Colopy said. "We've had our eye on (the opportunity) for a number of years.

"We are really happy to be here. We think this is a great town and we have a fantastic facility here," he said.

The players, including 21-year-old outfielder Jared Kujawa, are also excited to have a team in Kalamazoo again.

"I am mostly looking forward to being a part of the first-ever Growlers team. The fact is that I live in Kalamazoo now and I can feel the excitement that summer baseball is back," Kujawa said. "I can't wait to see how much fun it is to be at the ballpark every day. I think it will be a very cool experience that I can look back on in 10-15 years and say 'I was part of the inaugural team there.'"

Originally from Temperance, Mich., Kujawa is a junior double majoring in criminal justice and communications at Western Michigan University. He started playing t-ball at 3 years old to be with his older brother.

"This will be my third year in collegiate summer baseball," Kujawa said. "As with any summer team there are guys from all over the country and our coaches and managers have done a great job of finding some of the best talent around to play for the Growlers."

Colopy agrees.

"Our players are the best of the best in the league," he said. "Some of the best players in the major league were playing in our league not too long ago. We have the future Miguel Cabrera, the future Derek Jeter, but no one knows their names yet."

Notable league alumni include current Detroit Tigers players Max Scherzer and Drew Smyly.

In addition to being great players, all Northwoods League players are also college students. The 2014 season will include 72 games in 77 days.

As the team gears up for an intense first season, Colopy said the focus is on the fans as much as the players.

"This is not our team; this is the city's team," he said.

Kujawa agreed, saying, "I think the community is very excited to have baseball back in Kalamazoo and that means a lot. It will be a very cool experience being a part of the community and getting to play on the team because I will be able to see first-hand the impact the Growlers will have on Kalamazoo."

The Growlers will kick-off their inaugural season with a game in Madison, Wis., on Tuesday, May 27. Their home opener is set for Friday, May 30, at Homer Stryker Field against the Battle Creek Bombers.

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