After going 20 months without baseball due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mallards will start their long-awaited 2021 season at the Duck Pond at Warner Park against the Lakeshore Chinooks on Memorial Day.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited for a season,” Mallards Field Manager, Donnie Scott, said. “The place looks great, everybody’s ready to go, i’m just ecstatic right now.”
Scott has been the manager of the Mallards since 2013, and takes a career 198-154 record in Madison with him into this new season. He’s led the team to the playoffs three times in 2016, 2018 and 2019.
With baseball coming back to the Duck Pond, fans will be back in the seats as well. Following the recent announcement from the Dane County Health Department, the Duck Pond will be open to 100% capacity after June 2nd. The team will play two games with limited capacity prior to that date.
“For me, that’s the most important thing. As a team, we feed off the fans,” Scott said. “Hopefully we can get some packed houses pretty soon, I think it’s gonna be really cool.”
As for the players joining the team this season, Scott said he is grateful to have multiple players re-joining the team after having played with the Mallards in either 2018 or 2019. Joining as well are players that he coached last season in Kenosha after the Mallards sent their 2020 roster to play there as the K-Town Bobbers.
Former Mallards outfielder, Cam Cratic, and pitchers Theo Denlinger and Elliot Turnquist will be returning to Madison this season. Denlinger will serve as the team’s closer once again this season, according to Scott.
“He’s a beast on the mound, gives the whole ball club the attitude that this ballgame is over,” Scott had to say about Denlinger. “I’ve always said, if you give me a good leadoff hitter and a good closer, we got a shot.”
Cratic is a hometown product from Madison East high school, and is now at Missouri State University. Turnquist, from Sun Prairie, WI, is recovering from Tommy John surgery but has been throwing simulated games at Ball State University.
One of the players joining the team after playing in Kenosha in 2020 is the Mallards opening day starting pitcher, Ryan Lauk. Lauk, a senior from Wagner university, made 11 starts on the mound in his senior season.
“Ryan is special, he’s really excited to pitch in Madison and he’s got great stuff,” Scott said. “Character wise, he’s a great guy off the field and in the clubhouse. I’d have my daughter marry him if I could.”
As for the rest of the roster, there are 14 total players from the state of Wisconsin, and representatives of 32 different colleges. Players will report throughout the season, with the majority coming in the first few days of June.
“Everybody is pretty much in the same boat, and they’re excited to get here and get going,” said Scott. “Everybody starts out with some nerves especially if they got family or friends in the stands, but it’s gonna be great to see them in game action.”
A lot of the experience of going to a Mallards game will be familiar to returning fans, but one big change this season is the new logo the Mallards have introduced. The new look is a renewed commitment to the connection with the city of Madison.
“I like it a lot, and I think there’s a lot of people that do,” Scott said. “It may take some getting used to for some people, but I think it’s a great thing for the team and for the city.”