LACONIA — The father and son partnership of Jonathan and Noah Crane that brought the Laconia Muskrats to Robbie Mills Field have sold their franchise in the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) to a trio of businessmen from Portsmouth — Ira Blumenthal, Todd Hewett and Andy Minckler. However, the Muskrats will remain in Laconia and Kristian Svindland, a longtime resident and business owner, will succeed Noah Crane as its general manager with responsibility for day-to-day operations.
Svinland joined Jeff Morin to form HRO Plus, a successful human resources outsourcing firm in 2004, played baseball at the Laconia High School and is a Red Sox season ticket holder. He said yesterday that he joined the board of directors of the Muskrats in 2014 and has hosted players for the past two seasons. He stressed that the new owners are committed to building a successful franchise in Laconia and chose a local resident as general manager to ensure that the team strengthens and sustains its relationship with the city and Lakes Region community.
Svindland said that his top priority will be to increase attendance, which has lagged behind that of most other teams in the NECB. He intends to seek more sponsors from among the relationships he has formed in the local business community. He also plans to engage the players in the life of the community, particularly the schools, by engaging in community service. And he has worked with the Tilton Sports Center to field a team of young players known as the "Junior Muskrats."
Svindland said that one of the first goals of the new owners will be to complete construction of the deck atop the wall in left field before winter. He noted that the NECBL this year voted Robbie Mills Field the best playing surface in the league, confirming what players around the league have known for years. "It is a tribute to Kevin Dunleavy and his staff at Parks and Recreation," he said.
In a prepared statement, Svindland said "this is a dream come true me. I love baseball and the city of Laconia." He confessed that is embarking on :"a big learning curve," but added that he has made a quick start. With Noah Crane lending a hand, the roster for the 2016 team is nearly complete. Likewise, with crane's help he has begun building on the relationships with the colleges and coaches whose players have stocked the rosters during the first six seasons.
"It has been a wonderful six years," said Crane. "We did some good things." He said that a number of players graduated to play professional baseball and several interns with the team find themselves working in professional baseball.
Acknowledging that attendance never met his expectations, Crane said he is confident the new ownership and management "will push the franchise to heights I couldn't get it to." He said players returned to their schools "with only positive things to say about the team, the league and the city," which will enable the franchise to draw the talent required to succeed.
Svindland is equally confident. "Laconia can do this," he insisted.
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