THE DUCK POND ? The 2003 Northwoods League All-Star Game presented by American Family Insurance is rapidly approaching and the final preparations are being made by the Madison Mallards, who are hosting the event for the second time in as many years.
This year?s big game is scheduled for Wednesday, July 16 at the Duck Pond with the first pitch to be thrown at 7:35pm. Throwing out the first pitch and signing autographs before and during the game will be former Los Angeles Dodger great Tommy Davis. But the game is just the icing on the cake to what should be a great day for baseball.
The first event of the day will be the Outback All-Star Luncheon from 12:30-2:30. The event will be open to the public and held right at the Duck Pond. Admission is just $15 and includes a large lunch provided by the Outback Steakhouse, beverages, dessert, and various speeches from league and Mallards personnel including NWL Commissioner Dick Radatz and Madison General Manager Vern Stenman. The event will be emceed by Rich Reynolds.
Fans will then be allowed to attend the 2003 NWL Combine. The combine will consist of batting practice, infield, outfield, and a timed 60. Many area scouts will be on hand to rate some of the best talent in the Northwoods League.
From 4:30-6pm both teams will take batting practice. Then, at 6:30, some fireworks begin as it will be time for the NWL Home Run Derby. Last year?s event was won by Madison Mallard Charlie Babineaux.
At 7:35, it will be time for the All-Star Game featuring the stars from around the league. All-Star Games in years past have produced future major leaguers and this year should include that kind of talent as well.
Tickets for the luncheon and the game are available at the Mallards box office or you can charge by phone at 246-4277.
To illustrate how big a day the All-Star festivities have become, here is an article taken from the Wisconsin State Journal after last year?s game:
Wednesday, July 17, 2002
Christian LeBarton Wisconsin State Journal
The Madison Mallards wanted to give everyone a great show when they played host to the eighth annual Northwoods League All-Star Game Tuesday night at Warner Park.
The only thing Madison has to worry about now is an encore.
Madison second baseman Kyle Anson slammed a two-run double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to push the South team past the North 2-1 before a league All-Star Game record crowd of 2,712. Anson’s heroics earned him the game’s Most Valuable Player Award.
“I couldn’t imagine this,” Anson said. “In the beginning of the year, I just wanted to play. Then I made it to the All-Star Game, then this. You couldn’t ask for a better situation. It was perfect.”
Anson’s situation was one of dreams. Stepping to the plate with two outs, Anson watched the first two pitches sail outside the strike zone. The pressure evaporated.
“It was 2-0; a hitter’s count,” said Anson, who entered the game in the seventh and finished 2-for-2. “I just said, Sit back and rock it.'”
Anson’s play, along with the efforts of two other Mallards in the ninth-inning rally, put to rest any murmurs that surfaced when Madison, which finished last in the first half of the season, received a league-high 10 All-Star selections.
The comeback started when Madison first baseman Jaime Martinez singled to left field (Martinez was replaced by a pinch runner). After Drew Davidson’s shallow single put runners on first and second, up came Mallards outfielder Charlie Babineaux, who earlier won the home run derby.
Babineaux, after swinging and missing badly at the first pitch from Ryan Hamilton, put down a perfect bunt to advance both runners.
Ben Thomas was intentionally walked to load the bases, and after Blake Eager was thrown out at home on a force play, Anson planted the winner. The dramatic ending capped a flawless day at Warner Park.
The festivities began with a luncheon, with a group of more than 200 players, sponsors, league officials and guests attending. Northwoods League president Dick Radatz congratulated the Mallards organization on how far they had come in their two-year existence.
Afterward, the All-Stars took part in a combine before a group of major league scouts. Representatives from teams such as the Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles watched players put through their paces in the batting cages and on the field.
A pair of Mallards also highlighted the day’s other big event, the home run derby. While there were no Sammy Sosa-type bombs (seven homers were hit in the contest), Martinez and Babineaux each hit a home run to advance to the finals, along with Brainerd’s John Purdom. After Martinez and Purdom each hit one in the final round, Babineaux strung together homers on his third and fourth swings to take the slugging title.
“A perfect day,” Madison manager Drew Topham said. “The weather, the game. Everything.”
Mallards pitchers Brady Endl, Phil Martinez and Bill Bernabei all threw scoreless innings in the game, while Amad Stephens surrendered the North’s only run.