Kalamazoo, MI – The Northwoods League announced today that 214,584 fans went through the turnstiles in 2020, leading all United States baseball leagues, at every level, in attendance. Operating out of 15 locations and breaking the League down geographically to limit travel, cities and States, in a term that has become common in the sporting world, were identified as “Pods” and were able to play 502 games with innovations designed to concentrate on safety for fans, players, umpires, staff and all concerned in the team operations.
“It’s a headline that one’s imagination could not conceive of on January 1, 2020,” said Northwoods League Chairman, Dick Radatz, Jr. “In conversations with our Owners, prior to play, my concern was for all parties, but always emphasizing our fans and the general public.”
Beginning in Bismarck, ND on June 15, three teams all located in Bismarck, began play with a team-imposed maximum attendance of 500 fans per contest, utilizing safety protocols that would become the standard for the rest of the Northwoods League and other baseball Leagues that opened thereafter.
Following on July 1, play began in the Wisconsin-Illinois and Minnesota-Iowa “Pods” with six and five League cities participating. Also beginning on July 1, were two Michigan “Pods” in Kalamazoo and Traverse City, featuring three teams in each location that would play each other, only in their respective locations, throughout the regular season.
Limited to 100 fans per contest by the State of Michigan and local mandate, perhaps the most innovative concept to accommodate fans and players, the Kalamazoo “Pod” began playing two five-inning games daily and three five-inning games on weekends, with a Home Run Derby preceding each contest, doubling and tripling their daily attendance, respectively.
On July 15, Kenosha, WI was cleared for play, but due to scheduling, the League could not bring them into the Wisconsin-Illinois “Pod” to create an awkward seven teams. Consequently, the Kenosha Kingfish were joined by the K-Town Bobbers, in Kenosha, to play each other in a 24-game season. All in all, the League had 22 teams play in six states and 15 cities, navigating local attendance guidelines, sometimes differing within the same State.
In the 15 Counties that the Northwoods League participated in during the summer, no positive test for the Covid-19 virus traced back to attendance at a Northwoods League game.