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Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

An indoor milestone for the Bemidji Axemen

The Bemidji Axemen have a chance to make history on the Minnesota sports scene. Best I can tell, if the Axemen make it to the start of a third season next February, they will be the state champions for longevity in professional indoor football.

The Minnesota Fighting Pike arrived in 1996 as a member of the Arena Football League, played at Target Center, went 4-10, and went out of business suddenly and with unhappy creditors.

There were also two franchises in the original Indoor Football League (which should not be confused with another item in Minnesota’s pro football history — the Original Whizzinator). They were the Duluth-Superior Lumberjacks, a team that lasted the two full seasons (1999-2000) of the original IFL, and the Minnesota Purple Rage, which played in Mankato in 2000.

Don’t hold me to this. For instance: It’s hard to believe Rochester has avoided an entrepreneur with a desire to lose money on indoor football.

The current Indoor Football League first played in 2009 after a merger of the Intense Football League and the United Indoor Football League (a k a, the Ultimate Football League). There have been 41 different franchises in seven seasons, including 10 this year.

The Axemen’s second ownership group — Roseau dentist Phil Sallberg and Bemidji business partners Nate Coffin and Dan Skaug — are firming up plans to be back at Bemidji’s Sanford Center for the 2016 season.

The owners have hired Richard Davis, an indoor football and coaching veteran, to be the general manager and fourth head coach (including one interim) for the Axemen.

They are considering a name change, to Minnesota or Northwest Axemen, to create more of a regional appeal. Bemidji is the smallest city in the league with a population of 14,500.

“I used to be a Vikings season-ticket holder,’’ Sallberg said. “I starting going to indoor games in Bemidji as a fan. I fell in love with the nonstop action. I don’t have Vikings tickets anymore. If you ask me now, I say football was meant to be played on a small field in an arena, not in a big stadium.’’

PLUS THREE FROM PATRICK

Notes from the history of the Minnesota Fighting Pike:

•â€¯Art Haege left the Iowa Barnstormers as an assistant to become Pike head coach. He went to one players’ tryout and sent a fax to owner Tom Scallen reading: “I’m going back to Iowa.’’

• The Pike were winless (0-7) at Target Center.

•  Frank Haege, Art’s son, served as coach Ray Jauch’s defensive coordinator. Frank is now headed into his 10th season as the coach of outdoor football at Augsburg.

Reusse: Mauer hitting 3rd because he belongs there

There seems to be a perception among the most-devoted bashers of Joe Mauer that he continues to hit third for the Twins because manager Paul Molitor doesn’t want to hurt Joe’s feelings.

There’s not a day when I fail to receive an e-mail or a Twitter response stating that Mauer should be hitting seventh for the Twins.

If Molitor had a lineup as do the Toronto Blue Jays, the Detroit Tigers or the L.A. Dodgers, Mauer might be hitting seventh (although, probably second). What Molitor has instead is a lineup so limited that a slump-ridden Kurt Suzuki was hitting fifth regularly not long ago.

Molitor has Mauer hitting third most every night, because even with Joe’s long-term lack of power and his overall decline, he’s still tougher to pitch to than most of his teammates.

The Twins have been issued 20 intentional walks this season and nine have gone to Mauer. Trevor Plouffe is a threat behind Mauer, and yet rival managers are of a mind to walk Joe – sometimes to set up the double play (obviously), sometimes because it’s a situation where a single or double can beat them.

Rival managers aren’t doing this because of nostalgia over Mauer’s former greatness as a hitter. They are doing it to win ballgames.

Mauer has started 75 of the Twins’ 79 games, so the old knocks about fragility and ducking out of the lineup do not apply. And the idea that because he’s 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, and because he’s making $23 million per season, that he should be able to flip a switch and start hitting home runs … it’s silly to keep repeating that.

He’s not the hitter he was, and it seems like the anti-Mauer crowd wants to believe that’s a strategy that he has adopted.

It’s much simpler than that: Mauer’s not the hitter he was, because he’s not the hitter he was.

Baseball history is filled with hitters who peaked at 26, 27 , 28 and then started to slide. Joe is one of those hitters, not because he wants to be, not because he’s a malingerer, but because it happens.

Why is Miguel Cabrera still going strong and Mauer isn’t?

Because Miggy’s a better hitter, always has been with that easy power to all fields. Mauer never had easy power, even when he was slicing those home runs into the second row of the left-field seats of the Metrodome in 2009.

Mauer had a wretched couple of weeks to start June and his average bottomed out at .253. Since then, he’s reached base 22 times (14 hits, eight walks) in 12 starts, with his average inching upward to .266 and his on-base percentage going from .316 to .335.

These numbers are nothing to write home about, nothing like old times, but Mauer still has a better chance to slice a hit from the 3-hole at an opportune time that do the Twins’ other options.

Paul Molitor knows that, and so do the opposing managers who choose to have him pitched around.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Live racing

    12:45pm

  • Minnesota United FC at Carolina

    4pm

  • Twins at Kansas City

    6:15pm on Ch. 9, 96.3-FM

  • Fargo-Moorhead at Saints

    7:05pm on 105.1-FM

  • Live racing

    12:45pm

  • Twins at Kansas City

    1:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Fargo-Moorhead at Saints

    5:05pm on 1220-AM

  • Ottawa at Saints

    7:05pm on 1220-AM

  • Baltimore at Twins

    7:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Ottawa at Saints

    7:05pm on 1220-AM

  • Baltimore at Twins

    7:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Baltimore at Twins

    12:10pm on 96.3-FM

  • Ottawa at Saints

    7:05pm on 1220-AM

  • Live racing

    6:30pm

  • Ottawa at Saints

    7:05pm on 1220-AM

  • Detroit at Twins

    7:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Live racing

    6:30pm

  • Saints at Winnipeg

    7pm on 1220-AM

  • Detroit at Twins

    7:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Lynx at Chicago

    7:30pm on 106.1-FM

  • Live racing

    12:45pm

  • Detroit at Twins

    3:05pm on FS1, 96.3-FM

  • Saints at Winnipeg

    6pm on 105.1-FM

  • Ottawa at Minnesota United FC

    7pm on Ch. 45

Today's Scoreboard

  • San Francisco

    Washington

     

    - F

    3

    9

  • Tampa Bay

    NY Yankees

     

    - F

    2

    3

  • Toronto

    Detroit

     

    - F

    3

    8

  • Houston

    Boston

     

    - F

    1

    6

  • Baltimore

    Chicago White Sox

     

    - F

    2

    3

  • San Diego

    St. Louis

     

    - F

    1

    2

  • Seattle

    Oakland

     

    - F

    0

    2

  • Cleveland

    Pittsburgh

     

    - F

    0

    1

  • Philadelphia

    Atlanta

     

    - F

    5

    9

  • Miami

    Chicago Cubs

     

    - F

    2

    7

  • Milwaukee

    Cincinnati

     

    - F

    7

    3

  • Minnesota

    Kansas City

     

    - F

    5

    3

  • NY Mets

    LA Dodgers

     

    - F

    3

    4

  • LA Angels

    Texas

     

    - F

    13

    0

  • Colorado

    Arizona

     

    - Bot 7th

    2

    4