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Published On: October 25th, 2016

Rochester, Minn. – The Northwoods League has announced that John Fanta, GM of the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters, has been named the 2016 Northwoods League Executive of the Year. The award, which was decided by a vote of team officials at the League's annual fall meetings last week in Kalamazoo, MI, is given annually to the League's outstanding executive. In another vote, the Kalamazoo Growlers were awarded the Organization of the Year award.

Fanta recently completed his 9th year in the NWL and third as the GM of the Rafters culminating in a Summer Collegiate World Series Championship. In addition to helping manage the roster, Fanta oversees all ticket sales and advertising sales for the team. Under his leadership the Rafters drew a team record 51,694 fans and tied or broke 21 franchise records on the field in 2016. In his time as GM, he has guided numerous endeavors to improve the existing Witter Field facility including the League’s first-ever Interactive Accessible Seating Area as well as an interactive water-powered bar experience, the Point Craft River. Fanta has also helped oversee two Northwoods League All-Star Games in Wisconsin Rapids (2011 and 2015) and was named the 2014 Big Top Baseball Executive of the Year.

Fanta joined the Rafters as Assistant GM prior to the team’s inaugural season in 2010, after spending two seasons as the ticket sales intern for the La Crosse Loggers. He is a 2009 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse where he earned his degree in Sport Management and Business Administration. Fanta is a native of Viroqua, Wisconsin and currently resides in Wisconsin Rapids.

“I am fortunate to be surrounded by a phenomenal support staff and to be a part of an organization like Big Top Baseball,” said Fanta. “It was a tremendous season for our team on and off the field and receiving this award isn’t possible without the tireless efforts of my entire staff along with the support of our corporate partners and loyal fans.”

The Kalamazoo Growlers were honored with the Organization of the Year award after another successful summer at Homer Stryker Field. The Growlers continued to have success at the gates with 80,828 fans through the ballpark resulting in a 2,245 per-game average. Off the field the Growlers continued their success of gaining national attention for their promotions with the “Emojersey”. Fans of the club had the chance to vote for which emojis would be placed on the team's jersey for the Growlers' game on Aug. 13 against the Rockford Rivets. Within hours of the promotion's release, it went viral – first being tweeted by ESPN’s Darren Rovell and ESPN’s SportsCenter, and followed by articles from Cut4 (, CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, NBC Sports, Fox Sports, USA Today and many local news affiliates. No stranger to such attention, the Growlers won Ballpark Digest’s Promotion of the Year in 2014 for the Selfie Jersey, which was featured on Good Morning America, MLB Network, ESPN and many more national outlets.

"It's a big honor to receive this award with so many deserving organizations and front office executives in the Northwoods League,” said Growlers Managing Partner Brian Colopy. “Our staff is truly honored that we are a part of this amazing community and dedicated fan base in Kalamazoo."