Rochester, Minn. – As the Major League Baseball Divisional Series games get set to start tonight thirteen former Northwoods League players are each hoping for their chance at a World Series ring. Playoff rosters have not all been set but the following players are assumed to be on rosters for the first round.
The National League Central Champion St. Louis Cardinals lead the way with the most former Northwoods League players still playing with three. This trio of Cardinals coincidentally all played for the Wisconsin Woodchucks. They include relievers Pat Neshek (Wisconsin ’00) and Sam Freeman (Wisconsin ’07) along with infielder Daniel Descalso (Wisconsin ’06). The Cardinals will look to get past the National League West Champion Los Angeles Dodgers and former NWL outfielder Andre Ethier (Rochester ’02).
The Detroit Tigers once again won the American League Central Division and two former Northwoods League players are on their postseason roster. Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (La Crosse ’04) is joined by backup catcher Bryan Holaday (Alexandria ’08) as the Tigers attempt to get by the American League East Champion Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles have one former Northwoods League player on their roster as catcher Nick Hundley (Alexandria ’04) was acquired in May from the San Diego Padres.
The American League West Champion Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have two former Northwoods League players on their roster. Outfielder Kole Calhoun (Eau Claire ’07-’09) is joined by infielder Efren Navarro (Rochester ’05-’06) as they take on the Kansas City Royals and former NWL outfielder Josh Willingham (Austin ’98-’99). The Royals defeated the Oakland A’s and former NWL pitcher Fernando Rodriguez (Duluth ’03) in the Wild Card round.
The National League East Champion Washington Nationals feature two former Northwoods League players. Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (Eau Claire ’06) fresh off of his first no-hitter on the final day of the 2014 regular season is joined by rookie reliever Aaron Barrett (Duluth ’08) as they take on the San Francisco Giants. The Giants won the Wild Card game in the National League behind 2005 Mankato MoonDogs shortstop Brandon Crawford’s grand slam. The grand slam by Crawford was the first ever postseason grand slam by a shortstop in Major League history and helped send the Pittsburgh Pirates and three former NWL players home for the season. This group of Pirates included closer Mark Melancon (Duluth ’04), infielder Clint Barmes (Kenosha/Waterloo ’98, ’99-’00) and backup catcher Tony Sanchez (Battle Creek ’07).
The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. The 21-year old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 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 120 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (DET) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (WAS), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Allen Craig (BOS) and Ben Zobrist (TB). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League YouTube channel. For more information, visit www.northwoodsleague.com.