KANSAS CITY, Kan. — While the Kansas City Monarchs and Chicago Dogs fight through an American Association Championship Series on the field, the men who own the two teams find that more unites them than divides them.
“[It’s] ironic that we went to the same high school, we were in the same fraternity at the University of Kansas,” said Chicago Dogs Owner Shawn Hunter. “Four years apart, so we became friends when we both became owners. It’s a small world and I love it.”
Hunter started the Dogs in 2018 after a long career working for various professional sports franchises across the nation. Through it all, owning a minor league baseball team was in the back of his mind.
“It’s a laboratory,” Hunter said. “So, for me, it’s a chance to put 30 years of best practices, everything I’ve learned from great mentors and teams and leagues all into one organization and try to do things great from the start.”
The journey to owning the Monarchs was considerably different for Mark Brandmeyer, who bought the team after a career in the medical device industry. He realized one of his fellow owners was also a Jayhawk when he was introducing himself around the league.
“You know, it’s fun to be with a Jayhawk,” Brandmeyer said.
They might be on opposite sides of the championship series to wrap up the 2023 season, but owning teams in an MLB Partner League puts them on the same side of the effort to grow the game of baseball.
The partnership was created a few years ago when the minor leagues were reorganized in 2019.
The new partnership allows even leagues with teams that are not affiliated with Major League Baseball franchises to get more support from Major League Baseball.
It also means owners like Hunter and Brandmeyer working together off the field to share ideas about what brings fans to the ballpark and keeps them coming back.
“Of course, on the field, we’re competitive, but off the field we’re all for each other,” Brandmeyer said. “How can we help; we’re share any ideas anything that’s working in one place.”
That’s especially important in markets like Chicago and Kansas City, where Major League Baseball teams offer household names, bigger stadiums, but much higher prices.
“Fans can show up to our games, pay significantly less money and still have access to heroes, still watch them perform amazing feats on a baseball field,” said American Association Commissioner Josh Shaub.
He says the situations that the Dogs and Monarchs enjoy with ballparks near entertainment districts is an example to other minor league teams about how to set up a team to succeed. That example will be studied even more in the next few years, when Shaub promises the 12-team league will expand.
“In the next three years, we’re going to see significant expansion and what you’re seeing is the development of work, live, play,” Shaub said. “Stadium-anchored developments that have retail, apartments, everything you have right here at Legends Field, we’re seeing that all around the country.”
In the meantime, Brandmeyer and Hunter keep doing serious business, casually.
“I’m in my t-shirt and shorts, which is my summer uniform,” Hunter said. “I gave up suits about 10 years ago.”