Northwoods League

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Northwoods League
SportBaseball
Founded1994
DivisionsGreat Lakes Division, Great Plains Division
No. of teams26
CountriesUnited States, Canada
ContinentNorth America
Most recent
champion(s)
Green Bay Rockers (2023)
Most titlesRochester Honkers (5)
Level on pyramidSummer Collegiate
Official websitenorthwoodsleague.com

The Northwoods League is a collegiate summer baseball wooden bat league. All players in the league must have NCAA eligibility remaining in order to participate. The league is amateur, and players are not paid, so as to maintain their college eligibility. Graduated senior pitchers are also eligible to play in the Northwoods League. Each team may have four of these players at a time.

Teams play 72 games scheduled from Memorial Day to the 2nd Saturday in August, while the playoffs take place the week after, starting on that Sunday and ending usually on Friday. The season itself is broken into two halves, with the winners of each half in each of the four sub-divisions playing against each other to determine a sub-divisional champion in a best-of-three series. The sub-divisional champions then meet in a winner-take-all game to determine a divisional champion. The divisional champions then meet in a winner-take-all game for the league championship.

In 2020, some teams cancelled their season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For those teams that did play, instead of playing within their usual divisions, they played in hub regions, with some creating "temporary teams".

In 2023, the Northwoods League announced plans to create a new professional softball league. The softball league will initially consist of four teams based in Madison, WI, La Crosse, WI, Mankato, MN, and Minot, ND.[1]

History[edit]

Established in 1994, the Northwoods League was the first for-profit summer collegiate baseball league. It has more teams and plays more games than any other summer collegiate baseball league.[2] The Northwoods League drew over 1.1 Million fans for the fourth consecutive year in 2017. The purpose of the league is to develop players while college baseball teams are not allowed to work out. Many of the teams in the league play in ballparks formerly occupied by professional clubs from the Midwest League, Prairie League, Northern League, and Frontier League. The wooden bat circuit allows communities deemed too small for professional ball to continue to enjoy high-quality, competitive baseball during the summer months. The Northwoods League was the first summer collegiate baseball league to broadcast on the ESPN network, and currently webcasts all of its games.

The teams are located in the Northwoods region of the Upper Midwestern United States and Northwestern Ontario, mostly in the U.S. states of Minnesota (five teams) and Wisconsin (nine teams); also with three teams in Michigan, two in North Dakota, and one team each in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ontario.

Over 200 league alumni have gone on to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) with 91 alumni entering the MLB ranks from 2013 to 2017. Alumnus Max Scherzer, the 2017 National League Cy Young Award winner, and American League runner-up Chris Sale faced each other as the starting pitchers in the 2017 and 2018 Major League Baseball All-Star Games.

Competition[edit]

In small cities it may be hard to find the financial stability in a newly-founded baseball league. League leaders realized they needed to gain significant revenue from sponsors in order to succeed. According to league Chairman and co-founder Dick Radatz, Jr, two-thirds of the revenue comes from sponsors and the remainder from ticket sales, concessions, and team merchandise. Radatz also noted the importance of having the sponsor revenue before the beginning of the season.[3]

Teams[edit]

Northwoods League
Division Team Location Stadium Capacity
Great Lakes[4]
East Battle Creek Battle Jacks Battle Creek, Michigan C.O. Brown Stadium 2,193
Kalamazoo Growlers Kalamazoo, Michigan Homer Stryker Field 4,000
Kenosha Kingfish Kenosha, Wisconsin Simmons Field 3,218
Kokomo Jackrabbits Kokomo, Indiana Kokomo Municipal Stadium 4,000
Rockford Rivets Loves Park, Illinois Rivets Stadium 3,279
Royal Oak Leprechauns[5] Royal Oak, Michigan Memorial Park 600
Traverse City Pit Spitters Traverse City, Michigan Turtle Creek Stadium 4,200
West Fond du Lac Dock Spiders Fond du Lac, Wisconsin Herr-Baker Field 2,000
Green Bay Rockers Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin Capital Credit Union Park 3,359
Lakeshore Chinooks Mequon, Wisconsin Kapco Park 3,000
Madison Mallards Madison, Wisconsin Warner Park 7,500
Wausau Woodchucks Wausau, Wisconsin Athletic Park 3,850
Wisconsin Rapids Rafters Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin Witter Field 1,560
Great Plains[4]
East Duluth Huskies Duluth, Minnesota Wade Stadium 4,200
Eau Claire Express Eau Claire, Wisconsin Carson Park 3,800
La Crosse Loggers La Crosse, Wisconsin Copeland Park 3,550
Minnesota Mud Puppies Minnesota Traveling team
Rochester Honkers Rochester, Minnesota Mayo Field 2,570
Thunder Bay Border Cats Thunder Bay, Ontario Port Arthur Stadium 3,031
Waterloo Bucks Waterloo, Iowa Riverfront Stadium 5,000
West Badlands Big Sticks[6] Dickinson, North Dakota Dakota Community Bank & Trust Ballpark 1,200
Bismarck Larks Bismarck, North Dakota Bismarck Municipal Ballpark 1,900
Mankato MoonDogs Mankato, Minnesota ISG Field 4,000
Minot Hot Tots Minot, North Dakota Corbett Field 1,266
St. Cloud Rox St. Cloud, Minnesota Joe Faber Field 2,000
Willmar Stingers Willmar, Minnesota Bill Taunton Stadium 1,500

Map of teams[edit]

Great Lakes Division
100km
62miles
none
Rafters
13
Woodchucks
12
Rockers
11
Dock Spiders
10
Chinooks
9
Mallards
8
Leprechauns
7
Kingfish
6
Rivets
5
Jackrabbits
4
Pit Spitters
3
Growlers
2
Battle Jacks
1
Map
  Great Lakes East Division
  Great Lakes West Division

1
Battle Creek Battle Jacks
2
Kalamazoo Growlers
3
Traverse City Pit Spitters
4
Kokomo Jackrabbits
5
Rockford Rivets
6
Kenosha Kingfish
7
Royal Oak Leprechauns
8
Madison Mallards
9
Lakeshore Chinooks
10
Fond du Lac Dock Spiders
11
Green Bay Rockers
12
Wausau Woodchucks
13
Wisconsin Rapids Rafters
Great Plains Division
100km
62miles
none
Mud Puppies
13
Loggers
12
Express
11
Bucks
10
Honkers
9
Huskies
8
Border Cats
7
MoonDogs
6
Stingers
5
Rox
4
Larks
3
Hot Tots
2
Big Sticks
1
Map
  Great Plains East Division
  Great Plains West Division

1
Badlands Big Sticks
2
Minot Hot Tots
3
Bismarck Larks
4
St. Cloud Rox
5
Willmar Stingers
6
Mankato MoonDogs
7
Thunder Bay Border Cats
8
Duluth Huskies
9
Rochester Honkers
10
Waterloo Bucks
11
Eau Claire Express
12
La Crosse Loggers
13
Minnesota Mud Puppies (Not pictured)

Franchise timeline[edit]

Royal Oak LeprechaunsBadlands Big SticksMinot Hot TotsTraverse City Pit SpittersKokomo JackrabbitsFond du Lac Dock SpidersBismarck LarksRockford RivetsKenosha KingfishKalamazoo GrowlersLakeshore ChinooksWisconsin Rapids RaftersWillmar StingersGreen Bay RockersBattle Creek BombersEau Claire ExpressBrainerd Blue ThunderThunder Bay Border CatsLa Crosse LoggersDuluth HuskiesMadison MallardsAlexandria BeetlesMankato MashersSouthern Minny StarsGrand Forks Channel CatsBrainerd Mighty GullsWaterloo BucksWausau WoodchucksRochester HonkersManitowoc SkunksKenosha KroakersSt. Cloud Rox (collegiate summer baseball)

Not included are the temporary teams that were created and made for 2020 as teams had to cancel their season or only play locally/regionally.

Champions[edit]

Season Champion Runner-up Result
1994 Rochester Honkers --- ---
1995 Kenosha Kroakers Manitowoc Skunks 2-0
1996 Waterloo Bucks Rochester Honkers 2-0
1997 Rochester Honkers (2) Waterloo Bucks 2-1
1998 St. Cloud River Bats Rochester Honkers 2-0
1999 Rochester Honkers (3) St. Cloud River Bats 2-1
2000 St. Cloud River Bats (2) Waterloo Bucks 2-0
2001 Wisconsin Woodchucks St. Cloud River Bats 2-1
2002 Waterloo Bucks (2) Brainerd Mighty Gulls 2-0
2003 Wisconsin Woodchucks (2) St. Cloud River Bats 2-1
2004 Madison Mallards Duluth Huskies 2-0
2005 Thunder Bay Border Cats Madison Mallards 2-1
2006 Rochester Honkers (4) Thunder Bay Border Cats 2-0
2007 St. Cloud River Bats (3) Eau Claire Express 2-0
2008 Thunder Bay Border Cats (2) Madison Mallards 2-1
2009 Rochester Honkers (5)[7] La Crosse Loggers 2-1
2010 Eau Claire Express Rochester Honkers 2-1
2011 Battle Creek Bombers Mankato MoonDogs 2-0
2012 La Crosse Loggers Mankato MoonDogs 2-0
2013 Madison Mallards (2)[8] Duluth Huskies 2-0
2014 Lakeshore Chinooks[9] Mankato MoonDogs 2-0
2015 Kenosha Kingfish[10] St. Cloud Rox 2-0
2016 Wisconsin Rapids Rafters Eau Claire Express 2-0
2017 St. Cloud Rox (4) Battle Creek Bombers 2-1
2018 Fond du Lac Dock Spiders Duluth Huskies 2-1
2019 Traverse City Pit Spitters Eau Claire Express 3-2
2020 No official league champion as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
2021 Traverse City Pit Spitters (2) St. Cloud Rox 9-3
2022 Kalamazoo Growlers Duluth Huskies 8-3
2023 Green Bay Rockers St. Cloud Rox 4-3

From 1995-2018, the league championship series was a best-of-3 between the two division champions. When the league expanded in 2019, the championship became a one-game playoff.

2024 Northwoods League Standings[edit]

Place Team Record GB RF RA
Great Plains West
1 Willmar Stingers 0-0 - 0 0
2 St Cloud Rox 0-0 - 0 0
3 Mankato Moondogs 0-0 - 0 0
4 Badlands Big Sticks 0-0 - 0 0
5 Bismarck Larks 0-0 - 0 0
6 Minot Hot Tots 0-0 - 0 0
Great Plains East
1 Eau Claire Express 0-0 - 0 0
2 La Crosse Loggers 0-0 - 0 0
3 Duluth Huskies 0-0 - 0 0
4 Waterloo Bucks 0-0 - 0 0
5 Rochester Honkers 0-0 - 0 0
6 Thunder Bay Border Cats 0-0 - 0 0
7 Minnesota Mud Puppies 0-0 - 0 0
Great Lakes West
1 Green Bay Rockers 0-0 - 0 0
2 Madison Mallards 0-0 - 0 0
3 Wisconsin Rapids Rafters 0-0 - 0 0
4 Wausau Woodchucks 0-0 - 0 0
5 Fond Du Lac Dock Spiders 0-0 - 0 0
6 Lakeshore Chinooks 0-0 - 0 0
Great Lakes East
1 Kalamazoo Growlers 0-0 - 0 0
2 Rockford Rivets 0-0 - 0 0
3 Traverse City Pit Spitters 0-0 - 0 0
4 Royal Oak Leprechauns 0-0 - 0 0
5 Kenosha Kingfish 0-0 - 0 0
6 Battle Creek Battle Jacks 0-0 - 0 0
7 Kokomo Jackrabbits 0-0 - 0 0

Notable Northwoods League alumni[edit]

La Crosse Loggers, 2004
Max Scherzer
Chris Sale
Mike Trout
Pete Alonso

Umpiring[edit]

The Northwoods League, in addition to being a developmental league for players and coaches, is also a developmental league for umpires. The concentrated game schedule, travel, and Minor League-like game conditions give NWL umpires a pre-professional experience. Since the League's inaugural season in 1994, 44 of its former umpires have furthered their careers in affiliated professional baseball.

The League recruits its umpires from the two umpire schools whose curricula have been approved by the Professional Baseball Umpire Corps. (PBUC): The Minor League Umpire training Academy and Harry Wendelstedt School for Umpires. The umpires ultimately chosen are usually among the top school graduates who were then selected to the pre-season, PBUC sponsored Umpire Evaluation Course.

The NWL contracts with eleven three-man crews during the regular season, a six-man crew during the mid-season All-Star game, and six umpires for both the divisional playoffs and championship series.

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Northwoods League Unveils a Fresh Look for 2024 and Beyond". Northwoods League. September 20, 2023. Retrieved March 25, 2024.
  2. ^ "Donovans sign to play summer ball". The Pennington School. Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  3. ^ Platt, Adam (June 22, 2018). "How the Northwoods League quietly became the dominant baseball league in the Upper Midwest". MinnPost. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  4. ^ a b NorthwoodsLeague.com "Teams" menu (no link available, just hover your curser above "Teams")
  5. ^ "Northwoods League Welcomes the Royal Oak Leprechauns for 2024". Northwoods League. October 19, 2023. Retrieved October 19, 2023.
  6. ^ Bomberg, Matt (October 10, 2023). "Northwoods League Welcomes the Badlands Big Sticks for 2024". Northwoods League. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  7. ^ Grossfield, Edie (August 17, 2009). "We are the champions". Post-Bulletin. Rochester, Minnesota.
  8. ^ "Mallards Capture First Northwoods League Championship Since 2004". OurSports Central (Press release). Northwoods League. August 16, 2013. Retrieved June 18, 2022.
  9. ^ Hunt, Michael (August 21, 2014). "Lakeshore Chinooks named top summer collegiate team". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  10. ^ "Champion Kingfish reel in another honor". Kenosha News. October 19, 2015. Archived from the original on March 25, 2016.

External links[edit]