Rafters 4th Annual Hot Stove Event Recap


Rafters 4th Annual Hot Stove Event Recap

Ballpark Improvements, New Concession Item and Guest Speakers Highlight Night

Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.-With sub-zero temperatures outside, baseball talk and warmer summer nights were the only thing on the mind of Rafters Fans inside the Hotel Mead and Convention Center. The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters Baseball Club hosted its 4th Annual Hot Stove Rendezvous Event on Thursday, January 5th. Nearly 300 anxious Rafters fans attended the event to highlight the upcoming Northwoods League season that is only 139 days away.

The first part of the program featured area baseball coaches for Lincoln and Assumption High Schools as well as the American Legion program discussing their outlook for the 2017 spring and summer seasons. That was followed by Rafters General Manager John Fanta discussing ballpark improvements to Witter Field for 2017. Plans to re-vamp the Fan Zone with new interactive inflatables and kids games will be one thing noticeable on the first base side this summer. Also released were plans to add additional Founders Club seats to Section C, D and E in the grandstand. The bleachers in rows one and three in the grandstand in those sections will be removed so a food and beverage rail can be added in those rows, providing a rail for the new Founders seats in the previous rows of two and four in the bleachers. An enhanced partnership with Aspirus Riverview was also announced with the headline addition being a new video board that is in the works for 2017, pending approval by the City of Wisconsin Rapids. Full details on this project will be announced at a later date.

Also introduced to Rafters fans was new game day concession experience for 2017. Field Manager Craig Noto, who is a native of New York, will have a food challenge named after him. Noto’s New York Platter Challenge is sure to be a hit with Rafters fans this summer. The New York Platter includes a foot long sandwich with grilled chicken cutlet, deli smoked roast beef, muenster cheese, sauteed peppers & onions, lettuce, tomato, ranch & chipotle dressing on garlic herbed toasted hero. Three sides to choose from will accompany the sandwich from the list of: mac n cheese, baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, chips. A slice of New York Cheesecake is for desert to complete Noto’s New York Platter. Fans have until the end of the 5th inning to complete the challenge and bring the tray the meal is served on back to Rosco’s Smokehouse. Fans that return the tray after completing the challenge will receive a signed baseball from Noto, free rafters hat and a social media post that they completed the challenge. This challenge is limited to the first nine people to sign up to make it on Noto’s “Line-up Card”. If you miss the starting nine for one game, you will be placed on the “bench” until the next Rafters home game.

The guest speakers for the event were Ben Heller and Field Manager Craig Noto. Heller played for the Rafters during the 2012 season before being drafted by the Cleveland Indians. After being traded to the New York Yankees in July of 2016, Ben made is Major League debut in August and became the first Rafter to the show. Heller spoke to the crowd about his experiences playing in the minor leagues and how the Northwoods League prepared him for his journey. Heller will head to the Yankees Spring Training Complex in Tampa, Florida next month to begin preparing for the 2017 season.


Former Rafter Ben Heller Speaks to Fans at the 4th Annual Hot Stove Rendezvous on January 5th, 2017.

Field Manager Craig Noto received a very warm welcome to all in attendance.  Noto announced a total of eight returning players for the 2016 Championship team. The Rafters will return the World Series MVP, Team MVP and two All-Star pitchers. The complete list of players returning includes Rob Calabrese, Scott Kapers, Dustin Woodcock, Brandon Polozzi, Chris Cooper, Cameron Busby, Jake Repavich and Gareth Stroh.

Solarus Founders Club and 9-Game ticket packages are on sale now. Any fans interested in a ticket package or setting up a group outing can call the Rafters at 715-424-5400 or stop by the Rafters Front Office anytime Monday-Friday from 9-5.


The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The 23-year-old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 20 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 160 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champion Ben Zobrist (CHC) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM) and Lucas Duda (NYM).  All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Rafters as your favorite team.