Phil Dangel was able to make a lifelong dream come true when he bought a baseball team.
Dangel, a Farragut resident and owner of The Shrimp Dock in Farragut, Bearden and Alcoa; is a lifelong baseball fan. In September 2015, Phil, his wife, Becky, and Knoxville attorney Rob Frost bought the Forest City Owls of the Coastal Plains League.
“I always wanted to own a baseball team,” Dangel, who is a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan, said. “It all started when my son [Boomer] was broadcasting its games. I would come and visit him.
“It takes a lot of money and at first I didn’t think I would be able to buy it. But as time went on, it became more feasible and easier. I have a minority partner, Rob Frost. He’s an attorney in Knoxville and he’s a baseball nut just like I am.”
The Coastal Plains League is a collegiate summer league and it’s similar to the Cape Cod League and Alaskan Summer League. The players use wooden bats, keep their baseball skills sharp and showcase their talent for professional scouts during the dog days of summer.
“At any one of our games, we may have as many as 45 scouts in the ball park,” said Dangel, who grew up a Boston Red Sox fan in Newton, Mass. He later purchased season tickets for Atlanta Braves games at the old Fulton County Stadium.
He went from fan to owner when he and Becky purchased the Forest City Owls last Sep-tember.
The league is obviously important to college players in their respective development, but any baseball team needs fans and Dangel realized this.
“The first thing that I wanted to do was to enhance the fan experience,” he said. “The first thing we did was lower some concession prices.
“Then we brought in vendors from local restaurants. There’s a popular local barbecue place there, and they have a stand at the ballpark with us.
“We wanted to bring in some of the local food,” he said. “I’ve been in the restaurant and market business, so I know how important that is.
“We also wanted to bring in some local craft beers.”
Dangel’s vision is no different than any other baseball owner. He wants the fan to thoroughly enjoy his or her time at the ballpark.
And this season, Forest City has added some promotional dates.
“We added some promotions,” Dangel said. “We have an Armed Forces Night. We’re in a highly religious town and so we added a faith-based night and then, we’ll have a Star Wars Night.”
The Coastal Plains League is comprised of 16 teams from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia and is the only league of its kind in the Southeast.
It features some of collegiate baseball’s elite players and provides a minor league-type atmosphere for fans, coaches, players and umpires.
The games are played in former minor league parks.
The Coastal Plains League, which was revived in 1997, is celebrating its 20th anniversary season in 2016.
The Owls began the 2016 season late last month with an exhibition game against the U.S. Military All-Stars. At press time, the Owls had a 5-1 record.
The team will have numerous other promotions including a back-to-school night, a breast cancer awareness night and a hose vs. guns local heroes’ night.
Notable CPL alumni include 2011 American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who was a two-sport standout during his college days.
He played minor league baseball while he was a college quarterback at North Carolina State and Wisconsin.