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Join the team: Timber Rattlers want you

Community-owned Class A club selling membership certificates
Just like the Green Bay Packers, the community-owned Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have offered up Membership Certificates in the team.
April 21, 2020

Minor League Baseball teams need fan support, now more than ever. But how exactly can fans show their support during this unprecedented period of indefinite postponement? The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a longtime Midwest League entity based in Appleton, are offering a unique option: Fans can, quite literally, join the club.  

Minor League Baseball teams need fan support, now more than ever. But how exactly can fans show their support during this unprecedented period of indefinite postponement? The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, a longtime Midwest League entity based in Appleton, are offering a unique option: Fans can, quite literally, join the club.  

The community-owned Timber Rattlers -- the Class A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers -- are a comparative rarity in the world of Minor League Baseball. The team is operated by Appleton Baseball Club, Inc., a non-stock, non-profit organization overseen by a 12-member board of directors. The Timber Rattlers, via Appleton Baseball Club, Inc. are offering "Owners Club" Membership Certificates in the team. The certificates cost $50, include a wide array of benefits and can be renewed at an annual rate of $25. 
Per a recent Timber Rattlers press release, proceeds raised by the sale of the Membership Certificates "will help ensure the baseball team is around for years to come and to assist the club while waiting and hoping to play baseball during the 2020 season."
Rob Zerjav, Timber Rattlers president and general manager, said the sale of Membership Certificates is currently a crucial part of the team's revenue stream. 
"Half of our fans think we're owned by the [Major League-parent] Brewers. That's not the case. We don't have a billionaire owner to rely on," he said. "But you can become part of our Owners' Club. Here's that opportunity. It's great to see the number of people who are excited about this, who have reached out to show their support."
Membership Certificates have been available for several decades, dating back to when the Timber Rattlers were known as the Appleton Foxes (Zerjav estimates there are currently between 400 and 500 members of the Owners Club). Until now, however, Membership Certificates weren't something the team actively promoted and sold. 
"We didn't want to spend our advertising dollars to push memberships. We wanted to use it to promote tickets, to promote coming out to the ballpark as a group," said Zerjav. "But a couple weeks ago, we didn't have anything else to push. We thought, with everything going on and not having games for a while, let's let people know that we're a community-owned team. People want to help, so here's an option to help. It comes with its own set of benefits and isn't just a donation."



Perhaps the most unique benefit of being part of the Owners Club is having a direct say in the Timber Rattlers' operation. Those who purchase a Membership Certificate vote for Appleton Baseball Inc.'s Board of Directors. The members are elected for three-year terms, with a maximum of three terms. 
"The Board of Directors, they are not compensated. They oversee the club. They hire me and oversee my job," said Zerjav. "So you get to vote on our board of directors at the annual meeting in February, which could be a virtual meeting for the people around the country who want to get a behind-the-scenes look. We run through everything going on in our organization, from the business side to the baseball side. We talk about the financials and give full information on how the club is run. It's a look behind the scenes and can work on a more individual basis. If [Owners Club members] ever want to reach out and ask questions, we're happy to answer." 
Zerjav hopes the Timber Rattlers' Membership Certificates appeal to baseball fans far and wide. After all, a similar approach has worked for the state's most prominent sporting entity. 

"Part of this does goes back to us being 30 minutes from Green Bay," he said. "The Packers are a community-owned team and have sold stock certificates. We're not selling stock, but what we've seen with the Packers is that people want to have that certificate. To put it on the wall, point to it and say 'I'm part of the team.'" 
And when it comes to being part of a team, what better time than now?
"This is a great opportunity to understand once and or all, who and what we are. If people want to support us that's great," said Zerjav. "There are so many what-ifs right now, with us and with Minor League Baseball as a whole. We have a very lengthy baseball history in Appleton. We want to find a way to be here for another 100 years, and that's what we're trying to do." 

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.