By JAMES ZIEGLER/Bismarck Tribune

Published 05-28-2008

On Washington Street, just south of Main Avenue, there is a fence hiding the Bismarck Municipal Ballpark behind a layer of brown vines.

The preseason Northwoods exhibition game Tuesday night between the Brainerd Blue Thunder and the Alexandria Beetles couldn't be hidden as easily as that, though.

If the sound of Matt Power announcing the game didn't give it away, the endless stretch of cars lining Sweet Avenue surely did.

The Northwoods exhibition was one part of a greater scheme for Brad Feldman.

Feldman has been working toward the goal of a Bismarck Northwoods League team for two years now.

"I just love baseball," Feldman said.

The Tuesday night game was to determine the community's interest in Feldman's dream.

"Try to get the excitement, get the people here to watch. See what the turnout is and maybe even get a team here in the future," Feldman said.

There was a good crowd for the face off between Alexandria and Brainerd, both Minnesota teams.

The only no-show was the sun. It was invited, but for reasons unknown, decided not to attend, aside from brief glimmers from behind a thick layer of clouds.

Walking up to the ballpark entrance, the crowd seemed small from the street. Only the cars gave away its true numbers. Feldman estimated more than 400 people attended.

"I spent a month putting this thing together, and the fact that we have four or five hundred people here bodes well, in my opinion, about what we could do in the future," Feldman said.

Alexandria jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning, early enough that latecomers were still straggling in.

"I'm glad to see that there's still people walking up," Feldman said.

At first the crowd reflected the weather - not quite dark, but definitely serious and quiet. They are mostly families. Small children pepper the stands.

Dads watching the game intently, while junior plays behind the bleachers and mom wanders down to the concession stand.

According to Feldman, this is the first time Bismarck has hosted a Northwoods game.

"I've been talking with Brainerd for quite a while now, actually about eight months. So when I got the idea, I gave them a call and I said, 'you know, what do you think? Do you think you guys could do this?'

"And they said, 'If you can put it on, we'll come and we'll get another team.'"

At the end of the night Alexandria took the game with a score of 11-8.

It was a good step toward Feldman's goal of a Bismarck Northwoods team by next year.

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