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 were made up of older members of the community, as well as other players from the surrounding area. This meant that there was not a 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 of the fact they were made up of primarily high school juniors that there weren’t space for on the Lakers. They called themselves the “Juniors,” but for the sake of ease, it was abbreviated to the “J’s.” This team wore green uniforms, as they were sponsored by Home Juice. 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 of time 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 (which is 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 re-born after a small group of baseball enthusiasts, as well as several local businessmen got together to sponsor the team. There were over 70 initial sponsors for the 1987 season, and they were led by Phil Rooney, who was 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, they Jays logo was changed to the “running Jay,” which was created by Prior Lake High School science teacher Andy Franklin. This logo featured a muscular Jay bird in full baseball uniform. The team colors at this time were red, white and blue, and would stay that way until 1997, when they would change 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 of the players go on to play college baseball, and they would all come home over the course of the summer to play for the Jays.
For a new team, the Jays definitely hit the ground running, 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, as they qualified 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 was making it hard for everyone to get 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 with the creation of 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 such 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 face Jordan, Shakopee, Chaska, and Victoria with two berths to the Class B State Tournament on the line.
State Tournament Appearances
Prior Lake Jays: 1987, 88, 89, 93, 94, 95, 96, 2001, 2009 (2nd Place Finish)
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)