The 2018 season marks the quarter century milestone for the Northwoods League!
In June of 1994, amidst a relatively sparse summer collegiate baseball landscape, five teams in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa took the field as part of the upstart Northwoods League. The model: bring the promotional and entrepreneurial spirit of professional baseball to the summer collegiate market. In its first season, all five teams were owned by the League, and each played local town ball teams to fill out the 56-game schedule. Approximately 70,000 fans attended games that first season.
Fast forward twenty-five years, and the Northwoods League has distinguished itself among a prolific summer collegiate baseball landscape. It has grown to 20 affiliates across six states and one Canadian province. Teams play a 72-game season and the League’s attendance perennially exceeds 1 million. All of the games are broadcast with a 4-camera HD production, expanding the visibility of our players, teams and communities well-beyond the geographic footprint of the League. More than 185 alumni have made it to the Major Leagues – with three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist (CHC) and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET) and Curtis Granderson (TOR) leading the way.
25 Memorable Moments in Northwoods League History
Follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or check back here on Mondays and Thursdays starting March 5, to celebrate 25 moments that have shaped the Northwoods League.
Northwoods League First Summer Collegiate League to Draw One Million Fans in Single Season (released May 17)
One Million. One million of nearly anything is significant, and in the world of summer collegiate baseball attendance it was unprecedented. At least until 2014, when the Northwoods League drew 1.1 million fans and became the first summer collegiate summer league to surpass that threshold. In fact, that season, Northwoods League attendance outdrew three of the four short-season minor league baseball leagues. Proving it was not an anomaly, the Northwoods League has surpassed one million fans in every season since. Read Complete Story.
Val Pascucci Throws First No-Hitter in Northwoods League (released May 14)
On July 16th, 1998, Val Pascucci threw the first no-hitter in Northwoods League history, a 9-0 victory over the Austin Southern Minny Stars. Since that day 20 other no-hitters have occurred in the Northwoods League.
As a member of the Honkers in 1998, Pascucci (Oklahoma) had one of the most productive seasons in franchise history. Working both as an outfielder and pitcher, he played in all 62 games that season. He hit .289 with 11 doubles, 11 HR and 49 RBI and compiled a 2-3 record on the mound with a 3.06 ERA, 29 strikeouts and 18 walks. In addition to being named to both the mid-season and post-season All-Star teams, Pascucci earned the “Star of Stars” award as the All-Star Game MVP. Read Complete Story.
La Crosse Stadium Built Specifically for Northwoods League Team (released May 10)
When asked about his early expectations for the Northwoods League, Dick Radatz, Jr., Founder and current Chairman, said one thing he never envisioned was an owner or municipality building a stadium specifically to house a Northwoods League team. That all changed in September 2002 when he spent an afternoon in La Crosse, Wis., with local businessman and longtime baseball fan, Dan Kapanke.
Kapanke, who was born and raised in La Crosse, firmly believed La Crosse could support a Northwoods League team. He and Radatz looked at several sites that day, none of which were ready to house an NWL team. Read Complete Story.
Northwoods League Installs 4-Camera Webcasting System in All Ballparks (released May 7)
After a three-year agreement with ESPN to broadcast select Northwoods League games and a half-hour studio show from 2007-2009, the Northwoods League took the unprecedented step for the 2010 season of installing four-camera webcasting systems in all of its ballparks to make webcasts of every game available online. The League supplied the equipment and teams staffed the local operations, while the League also opened a seasonal studio to provide support and develop content. Read Complete Story.
Curtis Granderson Teams Up with Northwoods League Foundation (released May 3)
The Northwoods League and the Northwoods League Foundation reached an agreement in 2009 with alumnus Curtis Granderson to be the “face” of its philanthropic and alumni relation efforts for the next two years. Granderson played for the Mankato Mashers, now known as the MoonDogs, in 2001 where he batted .328 in 44 games, with eight doubles, two triples, one home run, 17 RBI, 28 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases.
The agreement called for the Northwoods League and The Northwoods League Foundation to work in conjunction with Granderson to help promote his Grand Kids Foundation while also working to bring awareness to the newly formed Northwoods League Foundation and engaging Northwoods League alums. Read Complete Story.
St. Cloud Sets Summer Collegiate Record with 50,000+ Fans in Single Season (released April 30)
In 1998, the St. Cloud River Bats, in just their second season in the Northwoods League, set a summer collegiate season attendance record of 53,197 fans in 31 openings. This benchmark was not only significant in the broad scope of summer collegiate ball but was also illustrative of the growth happening across the Northwoods League as it completed its fifth season. Read Complete Story.
Tony Sanchez Drafted 4th Overall in MLB First-Year Player Draft (released April 23)
The Northwoods League experienced another successful Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in 2009 with Tony Sanchez of the Battle Creek Bombers being the highest pick in league history (4th). In all, 136 players were taken that year including 25 players selected in the top 10 rounds.
Sanchez, from Boston College, became the highest draft pick in Northwoods League history when he was selected 4th overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Former St. Cloud River Bats pitcher Thomas Diamond previously held the mark as the 10th overall pick by the Texas Rangers out of the University of New Orleans in 2004. Outfielders Brett Jackson and Tim Wheeler joined Sanchez as first round picks marking the first draft where multiple NWL alumni were selected in the first round. Read Complete Story.
First NWL Umpire Works a Major League Baseball Game (released April 23)
The Northwoods League is full of players hoping to make it to the Major Leagues one day, but they aren’t the only ones on the field with aspirations of reaching the highest level of professional baseball. While the players hone their skills, the umpires are also getting evaluated and receiving feedback on their technique in hopes of advancing to the next level. Delfin Colon was the first Northwoods League umpire to advance to the highest level and work a Major League Baseball game. Read Complete Story.
The Twinkie Dog on Good Morning America (released April 19)
The Twinkie Dog, introduced at C.O. Brown Stadium for the 2013 Battle Creek Bombers season, received some big-league tv time on Good Morning America that March. The Bombers Managing Partner Brian Colopy, and then-GM Tony Iovieno, joined GMA hosts Lara Spencer, Josh Elliott and Amy Robach, along with some lucky audience members, for a taste test of the infamous treat. Read Complete Story.
2016 Home Run Derby at the Harbor (released April 16)
The home run derby has become a staple event, and fan favorite, at baseball all-star games around the country. In 2016, Northwoods League fans and Kenosha locals were in for a “king”-sized treat when the Kingfish hosted that summer’s Home Run Derby at Kenosha Harbor.
Eighteen of the top sluggers in the League, nine from each division, took their turn at bat in a nine-inning home run challenge that featured players hitting off the dock over an ‘outfield wall’ made of buoys and pool noodles. Read Complete Story.
Introduction of the Major League Dreams Showcase (released April 12)
A first of its’ kind event, originally called the Big League Dreams Showcase, the Major League Dreams Showcase was introduced during the 2013 season. Born out of a desire by scouts to see more players in one place outside of the annual NWL All-Star game, the Showcase is now an annual event that features four teams of 25 players chosen by Major League scouts. While the All-Star Game is an event based on accomplishments, the Showcase selection is based on potential. Read Complete Story.
Duluth Manager Terry Collins Named as New York Mets Manager (released April 9)
Terry Collins is the first and only Northwoods League manager to later become a manager at the Major League level. Collins, who formerly was the Duluth Huskies’ manager, was named the New York Mets manager on November 23, 2010. The Michigan native was familiar with the Mets organization as he spent the 2010 season as their Minor League Field Coordinator. Collins joined the Duluth Huskies midway through the 2009 season after coaching the Chinese national team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. During his tenure with the Huskies he posted a 5-9 record, but his impact far exceeded the win/loss record. Collins passed on his experiences within professional baseball while also improving the Huskies’ players. See Complete Story.
Sale of First Northwoods League Franchise (released April 5)
The Northwoods League founders took a chance in 1994 that the model they knew for promoting and operating professional baseball teams would translate to the summer collegiate world. They jumped into the inaugural season without a safety net, owning and operating all five teams themselves in the hopes it would take off and someone would buy into their idea. And the experiment might have ended during its first off-season if not for Waterloo, Iowa. Read Complete Story.
Jeff Weaver First NWL Alum to Make MLB Debut (released April 2)
On April 14, 1999 Jeff Weaver pitched in his first Major League game with the Detroit Tigers. In doing so he became the first Northwoods League alum to debut in Major League Baseball and was the fastest Tigers draft pick to make it to the big leagues. Weaver would go on to compile 104 wins and 1,214 strikeouts over an eleven-year career that included an appearance in the 2006 World Series. Read Complete Story.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig Speaks at Northwoods League All-Star Game (released March 29)
For baseball players aspiring to the major leagues, and those dedicated to developing their skills through summer collegiate play, having the sitting Major League Baseball Commissioner in the room to encourage them and share his thoughts on their journey can only be described as an opportunity of a lifetime. On July 21, 2014, Northwoods League All-Stars participating in the 20th NWL All-Star Game had just that opportunity. Read Complete Story.
Juan Pierre First NWL Alum to Win World Series Title (released March 26)
Former Manitowoc Skunk, Juan Pierre, was the first Northwoods League alum to win a World Series title and the second NWL alum to reach the Major Leagues. Pierre played in the NWL for the Manitowoc Skunks during the 1996 season and won the batting title with a .360 average (49-for-136) over 35 games.
Pierre was first drafted in the 48th round of the 1996 draft by the Mariners but would return to school. He was then drafted again by the Rockies in the 13th round of the 1998 MLB June Amateur Draft. Read Complete Story.
ESPN Broadcasts Northwoods League Games (released March 22)
In 2007, the Northwoods League broke new ground for a summer collegiate league, entering into a deal with sports broadcast leader ESPN to televise NWL games nationally on ESPNU, which had been launched just two years earlier. In addition to broadcasting select regular-season games and the All-Star Game, eleven 30-minute episodes of
“Northwoods Baseball Weekly” also aired to a national audience. Read Complete Story.
Madison Mallards Draw 10,061 Fans for Single-Game (released March 19)
On June 12, 2004, the stars aligned for a record-setting night in Madison, WI. 10,061 fans packed the Duck Pond for the team’s 100th home game, on what team officials described as the first night of good weather they had all year, and saw the Mallards take home a 4-1 victory against the Rochester Honkers.
Buzz around the team had been steadily growing throughout its first three seasons, and continued into 2004 spurred by ballpark renovations, promotions and a solid team on the field. Read Complete Story.
TJ Friedl Becomes the Highest Paid Non-Drafted Domestic Free Agent (released March 15)
Former St. Cloud Rox outfielder TJ Friedl signed a free agent contract with the Cincinnati Reds in August of 2016. In doing so, he received the highest bonus in MLB history for a non-drafted free agent. Friedl was previously thought to be ineligible to sign that year, but it was discovered that as a redshirt sophomore he had the requisite three years of eligibility completed (2 years playing, 1 year redshirt) to be signed as a free agent. Friedl signed for a $735,000 bonus, setting the record for the highest bonus for a non-drafted free agent. Read Complete Story.
Wisconsin Rapids Sets Single-Season Wins Record (released March 12)
Fresh off their 2016 Summer Collegiate World Series Championship, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters followed that up in 2017 by winning a League-record 52 games. As part of this record-setting feat, the Rafters won 14 straight games from June 2 through June 16. Read Complete Story.
NWL All-Stars Beat Team USA 1-0 (released March 8)
For many baseball fans, July 10, 2001, is remembered for Cal Ripken’s epic All-Star Game sendoff. His magical performance in Seattle was the epitome of his Hall of Fame career.
But 1,600 miles away, in St. Cloud, Minn., nearly 2,000 fans were witnessing their own unbelievable All-Star Game moment. In an exhibition game against the USA Baseball National Team, the Northwoods League All-Stars held Team USA scoreless, winning the game 1-0 in a 10-inning pitcher’s duel and handing the national team their first shutout in nearly a year. Read Complete Story.
Opening Day 1994 (released March 5)
On June 10, 1994, the Northwoods League threw its first pitch and a revolution in summer collegiate baseball was underway. Founded by long-time professional baseball owners and operators George MacDonald, Jr., Dick Radatz, Jr., William McKee and John Wendel, the concept was simple yet untested: apply the professional baseball model of promoting games to the summer collegiate baseball landscape. Five teams, all owned by the League, made up the inaugural season membership, including the Dubuque Mud Puppies, Kenosha Kroakers, Manitowoc Skunks, Rochester Honkers and Wausau Woodchucks. Read Complete Story.
Share the Glove | Northwoods League Foundation Donating $50,000 in Baseball and Softball Equipment
The Northwoods League Foundation is celebrating the 25th season of the Northwoods League by donating $50,000 in youth Rawlings baseball and softball equipment through 20 grants. Each grant, with an approximate retail value of $2500, will include two sets of catcher’s gear, ten gloves, eight batting helmets, six bats and one bucket of practice balls.
Click HERE for more information.