The Lake Country DockHounds are a rookie team in the American Association of Professional Baseball, but the team’s lineup – on and off the field – is loaded with hardball experience.
The ownership group of the DockHounds, an independent pro team playing its first season this spring, is led by the baseball-crazed Kelenic family of Waukesha County and includes Tom Kelenic, his wife, Lisa, and their son, Jarred, who was the sixth player taken in the 2018 Major League Baseball draft and now patrols
the outfield for the Seattle Mariners.
That’s not all. Sal Bando, who had a 16-year major league playing career and served as general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers for eight years, and his son, Sonny, also have ownership stakes. Coaches with MLB experience? No problem.
The staff includes former Brewers players Dave Nilsson and Paul Wagner.
Tom Kelenic knows the DockHounds will have their work cut out trying to be competitive in their first year, but he has lofty aspirations for the fledgling franchise. “I’d be really disappointed if we didn’t make the playoffs,” he says.
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The DockHounds will play their games at the new Wisconsin Brewing Company Park in Oconomowoc, just off I-94. The Hounds are touting the 2,500-seat stadium with an artificial turf field, as its “dog park.” The property also includes a community athletic and health facility.
The DockHounds made a splash with the signing of veteran Taiwanese star Dai-Kang Yang. The team also brought in a pair of players with local ties – Alex McRae, who attended Eisenhower High School in New Berlin, and Connor Bagnieski, a Milwaukee native who spent a year at Mukwonago High School before eventually landing at Bay Port High School near Green Bay.
Bagnieski jumped at the chance to play in his home state. “I’m really excited to be back in Milwaukee,” he says. “The fans in Oconomowoc are already so excited for the team even though we haven’t even played a game yet.”
A rivalry is already brewing between the DockHounds and their divisional foe, the Milwaukee Milkmen, who captured the league championship in 2020 and are set to begin their fourth season. Kelenic welcomes the upcoming battles with the more established Milkmen. “I’m certain there will be a good on-field rivalry between the teams and between the fans in the stands,” Milkmen manager Anthony Barone says.
No doubt the mascots – Milwaukee’s spirited Bo Vine, named the league’s top mascot last season, and DockHounds rookie Louie B. Sluggin – will have some friendly tussles, too. “I hope we can keep our end of the deal and make it a good rivalry,” Kelenic says.
The DockHounds and Milkmen will square off for the season’s opening weekend on May 13 at Franklin Field, the first of 13 regular-season meetings. A week later, the DockHounds will play their first home game against the Winnipeg Goldeyes.