Madison, WI – January 29, 2014. Madison baseball fans will see some familiar faces when they come to Mallards games this season. The Mallards have announced the signing of three local prep stars. Returning for his third summer with the Mallards is infielder Michael Handel (Minnesota) who played his high school baseball at Sun Prairie High School. Joining him is infielder Tony Butler (Virginia) who also played for the Cardinals and outfielder Nate Ricci (Jacksonville University) from Madison LaFollette High School.
Handel, a 6'1", 188-pound redshirt junior will join the Mallards on a temporary contract to start the season. Handel played for the Mallards in 2013 and 2011. Through his two seasons he has played in 52 games, and hit .216 with two home runs and 18 RBIs. His 2013 season was cut short, when he played in just six games before suffering an injury.
Handel has been the every day shortstop for the Golden Gophers the past two seasons. In 2013, he appeared in 52 games, including 51 starts and hit .245 with three home runs, 20 RBIs and nine stolen bases. As a redshirt freshman in 2012, he started 45 out of 49 games and hit .265 with two home runs, and 12 RBIs while swiping eight bases. He also had a .970 fielding percentage.
At Sun Prairie, Handel was named to the All-State team as a junior and senior in 2009 and 2010. His senior season he hit .429 with nine doubles and 25 RBIs, scored 27 runs, and stole 17 bases.
Butler, a 6'1", 185-pound freshman will join the Mallards on a full contract after completing his first season with the Cavaliers.
He suffered an injury in a pre-season scrimmage in 2013, causing him to miss his entire senior season at Sun Prairie. As a junior, he was named First-Team All-State after hitting .521 with two home runs, eight doubles, five triples, and 19 stolen bases. He was named to the All-Conference Team three times and owns the Sun Prairie High School single season records for batting (.521), hits (49), runs (43), singles (34), and on-base percentage (.628). He was also named Honorable Mention All-State in 2011 as a Sophomore.
Ricci, a 6'0", 190-pound sophomore will be playing on a temporary contract with the Mallards after his second season with the Dolphins.
As a freshman in 2013, Ricci appeared in 31 games, including 18 starts. He hit .242 with three home runs, nine RBIs, and nine runs in 66 at-bats. He starred at LaFollette High School where he was a four-year starter and four-time All-Conference honoree for the Lancers. His senior season he hit .430 with eight home runs, and 23 RBIs while leading his team to the sectional final.
The Madison Mallards are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 21st season of summer collegiate baseball, the Northwoods 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 115 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including MLB All-Stars Max Scherzer (DET), Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (WAS), Curtis Granderson (NYY), Allen Craig (STL) and Ben Zobrist (TB). All league games are viewable live and free of charge via the Northwoods League YouTube Channel. For more information, visit www.mallardsbaseball.com.