Prior Lake Amateur Baseball History
The City of Prior Lake has had a long tradition of great amateur baseball for over 60 years. Before Prior Lake High School even existed, we had the Prior Lake Lakers amateur team representing our town across the State of Minnesota. The Lakers comprised older community members and other players from the surrounding area. This meant there was no place for the younger players in Prior Lake to play, so the need arose to create a second team.
The Prior Lake Jays were formed at this time, originally as the “J’s.” They took this nickname because they were made up of primarily high school juniors whom there wasn’t space for on the Lakers. They called themselves the “Juniors,” but for ease, it was abbreviated to the “J’s.” This team wore green uniforms, as Home Juice sponsored them. Over time, the J’s nickname changed, and eventually, they became known as the Prior Lake Jays. The Jays continued to grow as a team, and by the 1970s, they had become one of the top teams in the State of Minnesota. This dominant period culminated with back-to-back State Championships at the Class B level in 1975 and 1976.
After the second championship, the Minnesota State Baseball Association requested that the Jays move from the Class B level (made up of out-state Minnesota teams) to the Class A (inside the Highway 494-694 loop) level. This didn’t sit well with the players, so instead of moving to Class A, the Jays disbanded. For the first time in over 40 years, the City of Prior Lake was without amateur baseball.
In 1987, amateur baseball returned to Prior Lake with the formation of the “new” Prior Lake Jays. They were reborn after a small group of baseball enthusiasts and several local business people got together to sponsor the team. There were over 70 initial sponsors for the 1987 season, and they were led by Phil Rooney, the President of the “new” Jays.
To create a new image for the new team, the Jays adopted the “Jay” bird into their logo. The original uniforms were white jerseys and pants with navy blue pinstripes. In 1990, the Jays logo was changed to the “running Jay,” created by Prior Lake High School science teacher Andy Franklin. This logo featured a muscular Jaybird in a full baseball uniform. The team colors at this time were red, white, and blue, and they would stay that way until 1997 when they changed to red and black, and the logo would change to the current “stylized” Jays logo.
The initial era of the Jays resurrection was also a period of great talent on the Prior Lake Baseball scene, as this was on the tail end of five straight Missota Conference championships for the Prior Lake Lakers baseball team, stretching from 1983 through 1987. These teams saw many players play college baseball, and they would all come home over the summer to play for the Jays.
The Jays hit the ground running for a new team, joining the tough Cannon Valley league, with tough teams such as Red Wing, Dundas, and Miesville. The competition was tough, but it helped the Jays qualify for the Class C State Tournament in 1987. They transitioned to Class B in 1988 and quickly continued their success by playing in the State Tournament in 1988 and 1989. By this time, the youth and quality of talent in Prior Lake made it hard for everyone to play for the Jays, and the need was established to create a second team.
In 1991, the second Prior Lake amateur team was established to create a Class C team. They started the season wearing the original Jay uniforms of the white with blue pinstripes and without a name. A fan contest was held to establish a name for the new team, and the Prior Lake Mudcats were born.
The Mudcats have been members of the tough Dakota-Rice-Scott (DRS) league since their inception in 1991, annually playing Class C powers Union Hill, Lonsdale, and Elko. The Mudcats have played these teams tough over the years, and their closest trip to the Class C State Tournament came in 1998 when they were eliminated by Cannon Falls by a score of 4-2 in the consolation bracket final to go to State.
As the Mudcats have been able to put a competitive product on the field, the Jays have been able to maintain their early success as well. The Jays were able to return to the State Tournament four times in the 1990s, and they also went to State in 2001 for the first time since 1996. While the Mudcats remain members of the DRS League, in 2002, the Jays became members of the Carver Central League and faced Jordan, Shakopee, Chaska, and Victoria with two berths to the Class B State Tournament on the line.
State Tournament Appearances
Prior Lake Jays: 1987, 1988, 1989, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2009 (2nd Place), 2020, 2022
Prior Lake Mudcats: 2011, 2012, 2016, 2019, 2020
State All-Tournament Team Selections
Rich Gove (1994), Tim Hanson (1988, 1993), Kirk Loehr (1987), John McFarland (1989), Chris Rooney (1996), Dusty Olynyk (2009), Sam Hoppe (2009), Kyle Zweber (2009), Chris Swiatkiewicz (2009)