[Baltimore Sun] ‘No one wants to get beat by a Flying Cow’

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When Ed Corporal agreed to coach the newest professional minor league basketball team in Frederick, he wasn’t immediately sold on the team’s Flying Cows nickname. But he discovered an unintended psychological benefit.

“No one wants to get beat by a Flying Cow,” he said with a laugh.

Unfortunately for opponents, getting accustomed to such an indignity has become an increasingly common occurrence. One of 38 teams in The Basketball League (TBL), Frederick owns a 20-4 record and the fourth-best winning percentage in the league.

In their inaugural season, the Flying Cows captured the Atlantic Northeast Division title and will host Games 2 and 3 of a first-round, best-of-three playoff series against the Albany Patroons on Saturday and Sunday at Woodsboro Bank Arena on the campus of Hood College. The team swept Albany (17-6) in three regular-season meetings, including a 129-117 victory in the regular-season finale on Sunday night.

The franchise’s triumphs on the court mirror its success off of it. Almost 1,200 fans turned out for Frederick’s debut on March 2, and team officials said average attendance has hovered between 700 and 800.

The Flying Cows’ popularity caught the attention of The Basketball League president David Magley.

“They do really well,” he said. “It’s just a great name. For us, 1,200 fans in an 1,800 or 2,000-seat gym looks great. They’ve got a good fan base, great entertainment, great team. They’ve done a nice job.”

The team’s origin traces back to a partnership between Bethesda businessmen Anthony Mazlish, former owner of The Healthy Back Store, and Michael Witt, former owner of Environment & Energy Publishing. After Mazlish saw an article in June 2022 on a TBL player using his firefighter training to administer CPR and help save the life of a referee who had collapsed during a game, he convinced Witt to join him in investing in a TBL franchise.

The Frederick Flying Cows play in the 1,600-seat Woodsboro Bank Arena on the campus of Hood College, and games have attracted between 800 and 1,200 fans. (Courtesy of Esther Addo/Frederick Flying Cows)

Witt, a 20-year season-ticket owner for the Wizards, Capitals and Nationals, quipped that he and Mazlish unfurled a map of the greater Washington metropolitan area to find a location to serve as the team’s base and chose Frederick.

“Frederick seemed like it had a vibrant business community,” he said. “It had its own identity, and that’s what we were looking for where a geographic region would take ownership of the team.”

Mazlish and Witt brainstormed a variety of nicknames for the team before asking residents and fans to vote on one of the following four: Howling Dwayyos (a wolf-like creature that stands upright), Brew Bears, Drachen (dragon in the German language), Flying Cows and a write-in option. Asked if Flying Cows received the most votes, Witt deadpanned, “The important votes.”

One of the most important hires Mazlish and Witt made was naming Chris Jenkins general manager. Jenkins, a 27-year-old Frederick resident and 2019 Salisbury graduate, was an account executive for NBA and MLB teams and continues to operate a high school holiday basketball tournament in Salisbury and own an event management consulting business.

“It was kind of the perfect spiral of the things that I did want to do, which was stay in sports, stay in basketball, and own a business from the beginning,” Jenkins said. “And they’ve given me all of the keys to be integral in building it up.”

Although Jenkins leaves recruiting players to Corporal, the former’s responsibilities involve many things on the business side such as sponsorships and game day operations and negotiating contracts with players, who are paid between $500 to $10,000 a month and are housed by the team.

The franchise has tried to make home games fan-friendly. General admission tickets cost $15 per adult and $10 per child, while children 3 years old and younger are free. Seats on the sideline and baseline range from $35 to $55, and seats in second-level suites cost $60.

Flying Cows forward Tavares Sledge was named an All-Star in the team’s first season in The Basketball League. (Courtesy of Esther Addo/Frederick Flying Cows)

The Flying Cows have also collaborated with area businesses for home games. Brewers Alley in Frederick created a Slam Dunk Beer with the Flying Cow logo, McClintock Distilling in Frederick sells a drink called The Purple Playmaker Cocktail, Piece O’ Cake in Frederick baked cookies called “Flying Cow Pattie,” and Rocky Point Creamery in Tuscarora sells a “Flying Cow” flavor that combines cookies and cream with a caramel swirl on either a chocolate or vanilla base.

During home games, breaks between quarters and halftime entail inviting young fans to participate in on-court games. After games, players sit at tables in a hallway to greet fans and sign autographs.

“I think a big part of [the team’s popularity] has been including kids and making it very family-oriented,” said Emily Snyder, who owns Rocky Point Creamery with her husband Chuck Fry. “The games kind of go on for a while, but that’s because there’s a lot of engagement with the crowd with bringing kids out during the games and meeting the players. It’s pretty cool.”

Fans have returned the favor by giving the players a homecourt advantage inside Woodsboro Bank Arena. Shooting guard Charlie Marquardt, who scored a school-record 51 points for Molloy University of the Division II Conference Commissioners Association, said the support has been overwhelming.

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“That’s everything,” he said. “We want to play and win for them just as much as ourselves. When you have a community like this and a city like this, the sky’s the limit. It’s really something special.”

Corporal, who coached the Meade girls basketball team in the early 2000s and was an assistant on the boys team under the late Butch Young, said he has spotted fans in opposing venues wearing Flying Cows apparel.

“I remind the guys, ‘We play for Frederick. We play for what’s on our chest,’” Corporal said. “So I wasn’t surprised by the community, but it means a lot to the guys for us to come out and see crowds. I’ve been to some places where buildings don’t fill up like that. But day in and day out, we’ve got great crowds.”

Told by the city fire marshal that Woodsboro Bank Arena’s limit is 1,500 fans, Witt joked that he hopes the team’s “Pack the Barn” messaging for this weekend’s games will test the fire marshal’s recommendation. Even so, Witt said he has been grateful for the community’s support of the team in its first year.

“We go stand at the front door after every game, and people thank us for bringing a team,” said Witt, who said the organization will not likely make a profit this season. “It exceeds my expectations. It’s always worth taking a risk. If your heart is telling you that you’ve got to go for something, give it a shot.”

The Basketball League playoffs

Round 1 (Best-of-3 series)

No. 1 seed Frederick Flying Cows (20-4) vs. No. 3 seed Albany Patroons (18-6)

Game 1: Thursday, 7 p.m. at Albany, N.Y.

Game 2: Saturday, 7 p.m. at Woodsboro Bank Arena

Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, 5 p.m. at Woodsboro Bank Arena

Schedule and tickets: goflyingcows.com

Stream: TBLTV.tv

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