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Published On: July 1st, 2020

BATTLE CREEK, MI., — The 2020 season will look different than any other year. The Northwoods League has been divided into pods, which have then been split into divisions.

In the Michigan Pod there are two divisions, North and South. The North division includes the Traverse City Pit Spitters, Great Lakes Resorters and Northern Michigan Dune Bears. All three teams will be playing their games in Traverse City.

The South Division is made up of the Battle Creek Bombers, Kalamazoo Growlers and Kalamazoo Mac Daddies. Each team will compete in a shortened, 40-game season against the other two teams in their division.

Beyond the initial excitement of baseball’s return to Southwest Michigan, this season brings with it the hope of a successful campaign for the Bombers. With a loaded pitching staff that includes Luke Murphy and Thomas Schultz from Vanderbilt University along with returners Keith Carpenter and Burrell Jones, the Bombers hope to shut down their opponents’ bats night after night. Second-year manager Mike Ruppenthal knows that this year will be different but is extremely excited about this group nonetheless.

“Obviously, it’s going to be a little bit of a different feel with this season kind of changing, playing regionally and the same teams over and over again,” Ruppenthal said. “It’s going to be a different experience for everybody, but I feel really really good about our pitching staff. We were able to get some arms in here that we normally wouldn’t have had with some of the other leagues shutting down.”

He also believes that the Bombers have the potential to be a strong offensive team as well with a lineup that includes Vanderbilt University’s T.J. McKenzie, Div. II Preseason All-American Joe Mason, and returning Bomber Seth Tucker.

“On the offensive side of things, I just expect some consistency,” Ruppenthal said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that have played a lot of baseball. We’ve got several that have played in the league before and had success.”

Seth Tucker, the Swiss army knife of the Bombers, is excited to be back for another season.

“It’s a great place to be, hard-working people, blue-collar people,” Tucker said. “Last year, I just fell in love with the fans, and I was excited to have an opportunity to come back.”

Aside from the excitement of returning to Battle Creek, Tucker sees this as a great opportunity for the team to have success.

“I think we’re going to do well,” Tucker said. “At the end of last year, we had some guys go home, but we’ve got fresh arms and fresh bats this year. It’s going to be exciting to see what happens.”

One player to watch in the upcoming season is T.J. McKenzie, a shortstop and outfielder from Vanderbilt University. McKenzie was drafted in the 39th round of the 2019 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals but decided to honor his commitment to the Commodores and play for manager Tim Corbin. He knows that playing at a school like Vanderbilt is sure to help his development.

“The biggest thing is just becoming more mature every day, getting better every day,” McKenzie said. “Also developing a routine that I can carry out every single day to help me get better.”