Rochester, Minn. – As Spring Training continues in Florida and Arizona, five former Northwoods League players and their teams have progressed to the Championship Round of the World Baseball Classic in Los Angeles.

In the first semi-final game tonight at 8:00 p.m. CST, the Netherlands will take on Puerto Rico. On the Puerto Rico staff is former Brainerd Blue Thunder pitcher Hiram Burgos. Burgos spent the 2006 season in Brainerd and is currently in the Brewers organization. During the WBC, Burgos has pitched five innings and allowed two runs while striking out two.

In the second semi-final game on Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. CST, Japan will take on the United States. The USA roster boasts four former NWL players. Former Mankato MoonDogs shortstop and current San Francisco Giant Brandon Crawford is currently hitting .444 over six games. To go along with that impressive average, Crawford has also driven in four runs on eight hits. Three of those hits have come on doubles and one on a triple.

On the mound the USA staff has two former Northwoods League pitchers that have yet to yield a run in the tournament. Former Wisconsin Woodchuck and current Philadelphia Phillie Pat Neshek is 1-0 with two strikeouts in 2.2 innings pitched while former Duluth Huskie Drew Smyly, of the Seattle Mariners, struck out eight batters in 4.2 innings of work in his one start before returning to the Mariners. Another former Huskie and current Giants closer Mark Melancon has been added to the roster for the finals.

Other participants in the first and second round games included these former NWL alumni listed with their current MLB organization.

Team Israel (7)
Dan Burawa (Atlanta Braves – Madison ’09)
Brad Goldberg (Chicago White Sox – Eau Claire ’10-’11)
Joey Wagman (Oakland Athletics – Wisconsin Rapids ’11)
Nick Rickles (Washington Nationals – Duluth ’09)
Zach Borenstein (Arizona Diamondbacks – Mankato ’11)
Richard Bleier (Baltimore Orioles – Alexandria ’07)
Cody Decker (Milwaukee Brewers – Duluth/Mankato ’06-’07)

Team Columbia (1)
Neil Wagner (Mankato ’04-’05)

Team Canada (2)
Rowan Wick (St. Louis Cardinals – La Crosse ’11)
Mike Reeves (Toronto Blue Jays – La Crosse ’10-’11)

Team Italy (3)
Frank DeJiulio (Duluth ’10)
Pat Venditte (Philadelphia Phillies – Wisconsin ’07)
Daniel Descalso (Arizona Diamondbacks – Wisconsin ’06)

Team Mexico (3)
Jake Smith (San Diego Padres – St. Cloud ’11)
Xorge Carrillo (New York Mets – Mankato ’09)
Efren Navarro (Detroit Tigers – Rochester ’05-’07)

The World Baseball Classic is the premier international baseball tournament, sanctioned by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), and operated as a joint venture between Major League Baseball and its Players Association. The Tournament features the best players in the world competing for their home countries and territories.

Following a qualifying round held in February, March and September of 2016, the 16-team field took part in first and second round games from March 6-19, 2017. The games spanned the globe, taking place across six venues, beginning with Seoul, Tokyo, Miami and Jalisco in the First Round. During the Second Round, teams headed to Tokyo and San Diego on the way to the Championship Round in Los Angeles.


The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. The 23-year old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 20 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 160 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champion Ben Zobrist (CHC) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM) and Lucas Duda (NYM). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website. For more information, visit or download the Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play.

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