Published On: June 29th, 2016

The Northwoods League has become the premier summer collegiate baseball league in the nation by churning out more future pro players than any other league in the United States, but there is another group also developing their craft during these summer months, and they are the ever scrutinized and very rarely praised umpires. Under the supervision of Winston Wood, Larry Rose, and former NWL umpire Bob Bainter, past and present umpires are looking to break the barrier of becoming the first ever Northwoods League umpire to reach Major League Baseball.


            There are 30 former Northwoods League umpires in professional baseball, from Mike O’ Leary in the American Association, an independent league, to the leagues’ six former umpires in Class AAA. Those who are ever so close to breaking the major league barrier are Kellen Levy in the Pacific Coast League, and a group of five, Toby Basner, John Saphire, Kelvin Bultron, Andy Dudones, and Travis Carlson, in the International League. With the average age of Major League Baseball umpires dropping slightly over the last decade, it could be just a matter of time before the Northwoods League sees one of the six men in Triple-A promoted to the highest level.


            Four more former umpires in the league are in Double-A. They are Joe Hannigan, Matt Springer, and Chris Gonzalez in the Eastern League, and Ben Leake in the Southern League.  Twenty more umpires who once worked in the Northwoods League are working in rookie ball or Class A.


            The Northwoods League has taken great pride in developing great professionals, and it is perhaps only a matter of time before a new group adds to the prestige of the premier summer collegiate baseball league in the country. Just like the players of the league, they’ll try to take a step closer to their ultimate dream of working in Major League Baseball.

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