Madison Mallards serve up the winning pitchMay 22nd, 2013
‘From day one, it has constantly been about improving the facility and making fans feel like royalty. He’s restored Madison baseball to where no one thought it could be.
- MALLARDS PRESIDENT VERN STENMAN
Madison Mallards owner and lifelong sports fanatic Steve Schmitt remembers looking out at the smattering of spectators sitting on aluminum bleachers at Warner Park in the summer of 2001.
Schmitt had just paid $150,000 for a new franchise in the Northwoods League and couldn’t help but wonder if his effort might go bust like three previous minor league baseball ventures in Madison did in the 1990s.
But as the Mallards prepare to open the 2013 season next Wednesday against the Eau Claire Express, filling seats is no longer an issue. In fact, standing-room-only is more like it.
The Mallards last year drew 217,143 fans, averaging more than 6,200 per game, which put them 23rd best for attendance among the 261 minor league baseball franchises in North America — and 2nd best among teams not affiliated with a Major League club.
Schmitt has pumped nearly $3.5 million back into city-owned Warner Park and with 350 seasonal workers, the Mallards are surely one of the largest summer youth employers in Dane County.
It’s all a tremendous turnaround from earlier efforts to tap into the Madison market, long considered a tough nut for minor league sports due to the competition from the UW Badgers and an active population with a reputation for doing more than watching, especially during the summer months.
“I try not to think about how successful the Mallards have been, otherwise I get an inferiority complex,” said Bill Terlecky, former general manager of the Madison Black Wolf, which went belly up in 2000 after five seasons here. “Those guys have really got it figured out.”
Indeed. Schmitt, along with team President Vern Stenman and General Manager Conor Caloia, have turned Warner Park at Sherman Avenue and Northport Drive into one of the area’s most popular summer attractions.
They’ve hit the Madison market spot-on: an emphasis on craft beers, a bike parking facility, promotions featuring the Seinfeld Soup Nazi and a mascot named after 1950s beatnik character Maynard G. Krebs. The team even staged a union night during the Capitol protests in 2011 that drew a huge crowd.
“From the beginning, I just wanted to see people having a good time. The idea was to create kind of a state park atmosphere with something for everybody,” said Schmitt, 66, who jokes he took four years in the 1960s to earn a two-year degree in graphic design at MATC, where he also still holds the record for most shots taken in a game (23) as a basketball player there.
Yes, the Mallards do play baseball, featuring some of the top college players in country. But the real key has been “fun at the old ballpark” with affordable prices, creative seating and lots of food and drink. A lot of food and drink.
The team offers seven-game ticket packages for $95 that include all the ballpark food and soft drinks you can consume during the hour before the game.
The outdoor beer garden and picnic tables in the Great Dane Duck Blind — where for as little as $28 patrons get all the food and beer they can consume — has proven one of the best draws. (The team wisely advises against minors in the Duck Blind for Thursday, Friday and Saturday games).
For families, there is the 5,000-square-foot Meriter & Physicians Plus Backyard, a grassy berm in left field where fans set out blankets to take in the festivities while the kids run around. Tickets there are $8, with $1 from every ticket sold going to support the Madison Parks Foundation, the YMCA of Dane County and the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County.
And Warner Park itself — once little better than a high school-level baseball field — over the past decade has been transformed into a real ballpark with dozens of colorful banners, brick-look walls, stadium seats from the Wrigley Field and Camden Yards major league parks and this year a new video action scoreboard.
Perhaps most importantly, the Mallards have managed to develop strong relationships both with local businesses and the city itself. That is a change from the previous baseball franchises where sponsorship was tough to come by and relations with the City Council were often strained.
In 2011, the city committed $800,000 toward a $2.2 million upgrade of the Warner Park stadium. The old bleacher seating was removed and replaced with a true stadium bowl, moving the fans much closer to the action on the playing field. In fact, the only things remaining from the old ballpark are the two cement dugouts and the concrete block clubhouse.
Under a 13-year lease signed that same year, the team pays the city $50,000 annually (with a 3 percent increase each year) plus utilities to use Warner Park. The Mallards are responsible for maintaining the playing field, which also hosts some 90 high school and city recreation league games a year in addition to 35 Northwoods League games.
And aside from occasional grumblings from neighbors about noise or gripes from other users of Warner Park about finding a parking space on game day, the Mallards seem to operate with few complaints.
“I can’t say enough about how they have reached out to the community,” said Madison Parks Superintendent Kevin Briski. “It’s obvious the ownership really cares about the product, the cleanliness, the food and beverage. It’s a high-quality night out.”
Dave Fritz, the owner of TRICOR Insurance and a driving force behind the reopening of the Potosi Brewery in southwest Wisconsin, has been a major supporter. The local insurance agency sponsors a seating area behind home plate that is the closest thing Warner has to corporate boxes.
The TRICOR/West Bend Club is a section where companies can host employee parties or bring in clients. An upper area allows guests to sit at tables while talking business — or even glancing at the action down on the field. There is also the TDS Triple Play Club down the left field line.
To Fritz, who grew up outside Potosi and still resides in rural Grant County, it all comes down to the Mallards owner and his passion for sports coupled with a keen sense of what customers want.
“Steve Schmitt is a marketing genius,” said Fritz. “He knows how to promote and how to sell while making it fun. You take that personality and connect it with Vern and Conor, who are absolute baseball fanatics, and they have created this circus-like atmosphere where people are eating hot dogs and drinking beer and oh, by the way, there is a baseball game going on.”
Team president Stenman likes to say that while many successful Wisconsinites dream of retiring to a cabin up north to enjoy the fruits of their labor, Schmitt decided to buy a baseball team and stick around town.
In fact, Schmitt is now an owner in three Northwoods League franchises: full owner of the Mallards, 50/50 with Stenman in the Wisconsin Rapids team and one-third each with Stenman and Caloia in the Kenosha franchise, which will begin play next season.
“Honestly, in 12 years of working with Steve, not once have we sat down and looked at the bottom line,” said Stenman. ”From day one, it has constantly been about improving the facility and making fans feel like royalty. He’s restored Madison baseball to where no one thought it could be.”
Long-known as a Big Ten football and basketball town, Madison has a rich baseball tradition too.
The UW made baseball its first official varsity sport in the late 19th century and by 1907 the Madison Senators were playing games on East Washington Avenue at the site where Breese Stevens Field was later built.
From 1920 into the 1940s, the Madison Blues were the city’s minor league baseball team, playing in the old Tri-State league as an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, sometimes facing barnstorming Negro League teams. Records from 1933 show the Blues losing 19-8 to the legendary Kansas City Monarchs before a crowd of 3,500.
But the Blues would skip town in 1942, leaving Madison without a minor league baseball team until the Madison Muskies arrived in 1982.
An affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, the Muskies quickly struck a chord with the Capitol City, drawing a curious collection of dedicated baseball fans and hard-core partiers to Warner Park. It didn’t hurt that the team went 87-52 in its first season, tops in the Midwest League.
With the irreverent, pony-tailed campus leader Leon Varjian leading cheers from atop the dugout, “The Fish” turned into a national story, earning the franchise a spot on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” program.
But the team could never again match the 131,646 fans who flocked to Warner Park in 1983, despite a parade of top-notch ballplayers that included major leaguers Terry Steinbach, Tim Belcher, Jose Canseco, Luis Polonia, Rick Honeycutt and Scott Brosius, among others.
With attendance slipping to 83,000, or 1,233 per game, by 1987, a new ownership group headed by Madison attorney Chuck Barnhill decided to take a shot at running the franchise. They initially reversed the attendance slide but still faced the same financial challenges of running a minor league baseball team in a cold weather climate.
Barnhill recalls how transportation costs alone throughout the Midwest League were crippling to a team that had built its fan base under the previous owners in part by discounting or simply giving away tickets.
“We lost more money in April and May, when no one came to the games, than we made the rest of the summer,” he said.
Finally, after the 1993 season, Barnhill handed the Midwest League franchise over to a group from Grand Rapids, Mich., and the Muskies ended their 12-year run with the city. The Fish went out big, however, playing to its largest crowd in history as 4,624 fans jammed into Warner Park.
“Hey, I think we finally found a promotion that works,’’ quipped Brad Fischer, the first manager of the Muskies, who came back for the finale.
Madison wasn’t without a team for long, however. The St. Louis Cardinals Class A team moved from Springfield, Mo., for the 1994 season, playing for one year as the Madison Hatters before moving to Battle Creek, Mich.
Then, with the north-side location of Warner Park being blamed for the demise of the Muskies and the failure to keep the Hatters, there was lots of talk about trying to build a new ballpark to land a team in the new Northern League, an independent professional circuit (now known as the American Association) featuring ex-big leaguers that had made a huge splash in St. Paul, Minn.
Amid much fanfare in 1995, a local investment group headed by attorney Pat Sweeney announced that a Northern League team — the Madison Black Wolf — would begin play at Warner Park in 1996. A snazzy black, silver and blue logo was introduced as well.
With a shorter season and less overhead than a team affiliated with a major league club, many saw the Black Wolf as a better fit for the Madison market. But from the beginning, the team was rooted in the idea that it would need a new ballpark to turn a profit.
There was talk of a new stadium in Fitchburg or perhaps a major upgrade to city-owned Bowman Field on Fish Hatchery Road. Nothing materialized, however, and the Black Wolf never gained a strong community following.
“The problem for the Black Wolf was that they were always looking for someone to build them a new stadium and that just wasn’t going to happen,” said city of Madison recycling coordinator George Dreckmann, who spent one summer as the public address announcer for the Black Wolf.
By the end of the 2000 season, the Black Wolf were dead last in attendance in the league, having lost money in all of their five seasons, with total losses estimated at nearly $1 million. With no new public stadium in the offing, the team folded.
And that is where the Mallards story really begins.
Dick Radatz Jr., co-founder of the Northern League rival Northwoods League, saw a chance to get into the Madison market. Radatz was fully aware of the city’s on-again, off-again love affair with minor league baseball but thought his model based on using unpaid college players might just work.
The new Madison Northwoods franchise was unveiled in October 2000, with Radatz saying it would need to average 275 fans per game for its 32-game home schedule to break even.
Radatz then hired Stenman, who had been working for the Minnesota Wild NHL hockey team but was familiar with the Northwoods League, and brought the then 23-year-old to Madison to head the new franchise as general manager. Before Stenman even arrived in Madison, however, the franchise had been sold to Schmitt.
“Vern came along with the deal,” joked Schmitt, a long-time amateur baseball player himself in the Home Talent League who had been an owner in a short-lived minor league hockey team in Madison.
Schmitt bought the Mallards the same year the NCAA placed UW-Madison’s athletic department on probation for five years and reduced scholarships for football and men’s basketball after a shoe-discount scandal at the Shoe Box.
Undaunted by his bad publicity, Schmitt dove headlong into the baseball venture. He was at the ballpark early every game day, helping cook hot dogs, straightening the banners and checking to make sure the restrooms were clean. His experience building a wiffle ball park next to Rookies had given Schmitt a vision he was able to expand full-scale.
And whereas owners of the Black Wolf were constantly talking about the need for a new stadium closer to the Beltline highway, Schmitt focused on making Warner Park the best it could be. He painted it Mallards green, flew flags over the grandstands and started jamming the place full of baseball memorabilia just like in his sports bar.
“I’ve got this theory that Steve has a fear of open spaces, which is why he feels a need to fill every open space with stuff,” said Dreckmann, who has become an avid Mallards fan.
That Schmitt has become so successful with the team is no surprise to Radatz. He says anyone who could take a rural shoe store and turn it into a destination location known nationwide could sell just about anything.
“Steve is somewhat of a savant,” he said. “The baseball thing was easy. “
A native of Black Earth who now lives on Lake Kegonsa outside Stoughton, Schmitt seems unfazed by the success. He counts people like St. Louis Cardinal Hall of Famer and ex-Milwaukee Brave Red Schoendienst as a personal friend and Shoe Box customer. He was invited to throw out the first pitch at a Cardinals game earlier this season by team manager Mike Matheny, whose son Tate will play outfield for the Mallards this season while living at Schmitt’s lakefront home.
To Schmitt — who says he became a Cardinals fan as a boy listening to the late-night broadcasts over powerful KMOX radio out of St. Louis — nothing could be simpler.
“It’s baseball, it’s green grass, what could be better?” he says. ￼
Former Mallard Parr Named Semifinalist for 2013 Dick Howser TrophyMay 21st, 2013
Madison, WI – Justin Parr, a member of the 2010 and 2011 Mallards, recently concluded one of the most successful regular seasons in the 133-year history of the University of Illinois and was named a semifinalist for the 2013 Dick Howser Trophy, which is given to the top player in collegiate baseball.
Parr’s 2013 regular season campaign included a second place finish in the nation in hitting and a 33-game hit streak that spanned from March 9th through May 12th.
Parr entered the last weekend of the regular season hitting .430 and was .001 points behind Bradley University’s Mike Tauchman for the NCAA lead. After going 2-for-12 in the Illini’s series against Minnesota this past weekend, Parr’s average dipped to .415 while Tauchman went 3-for-11 and finished the regular season at .427.
Parr’s 33-game hit streak was the second longest in the NCAA this season and included 17 multi-hit games.
His .415 mark proved instrumental for an Illini team that finished fifth in the Big Ten regular season standings with a 14-10 conference record. The Illini are currently 33-16 overall. Parr’s 85 hits ranks in the top 10 in the nation and his .484 on-base percentage, 125 total bases, 51 RBIs and 1.000 fielding percentage all rank first in the Big Ten.
His 2013 season was an improvement from an already accomplished career with the Illini. During his sophomore season in 2011, Parr won the Big Ten batting title by hitting a remarkable .411 in Big Ten play. That season, he was also named to the All-Big Ten Tournament team after hitting .429 (6-for-14) with a double, a pair of RBIs and three runs scored. Overall, he hit .317 on the year and had 32 RBIs.
During his junior season in 2012, Parr started all 53 games in left field and hit .290 with three home runs and 38 RBIs. He also stole seven bases and was named to the Third-Team All-Big Ten team.
Parr hit .296 with three home runs and 25 RBIs for the Mallards in 2011. He tallied 61 hits, which was good for second on the team, and led the team in doubles with 16.
Parr joined the 2010 Mallards team late in the summer and hit .256 (10-for-39) with four RBIs.
Parr’s older brother Josh also played for the Mallards in 2010 and hit .307 with one home run and 28 RBIs. His 21 stolen bases ranked second on the team. He was also named to the South Division All Star team that season. He was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 12th round of the 2011 MLB Draft from the University of Illinois and spent the 2012 season with the Low-A Yakima Bears and Single-A South Bend Silver Hawks. He had four at-bats for the Diamondbacks this past spring training and notched a pair of hits.
The Mallards will host their season opener against the Eau Claire Express on May 29th at 7:05 pm at the “Duck Pond.” Single-game tickets are on-sale now.
The Madison Mallards are part of the 16-team Northwoods League. The Northwoods League has more teams, plays more games, and draws more fans than any other Summer Collegiate Baseball League in North America. In 2013, the Northwoods League will celebrate its 20th season.
Tiffany Ogle To “Blend” Her Talents With ChinooksMay 15th, 2013
Grafton, WI – May 15, 2013, The Lakeshore Chinooks announced today that television personality, Tiffany Ogle will be their on-field host during the upcoming Northwoods League Season which begins with a road game on May 29th followed by the Home Opener on Thursday, May 30 at Kapco Park on the campus of Concordia. Ogle currently serves as the co-host on Today’s TMJ 4’s, “The Morning Blend”.
“Anyone who watches The Morning Blend knows I LOVE Baseball! So I couldn’t be more excited to be the new on-field host
with the Lakeshore Chinooks getting the community ’hooked’ on visiting Kapco Park!”
Tiffany came to Milwaukee back in November of 2009 and has served in her current role since then. Prior to coming to Milwaukee, the former Miss Minnesota worked in Minneapolis as a TV Host. She has also appeared in various television ads during her career.
“Tiffany will bring a great blend of professionalism, wit and humor to the Chinooks games this summer,” commented Vice President and General Manager, Dean Rennicke. “We are fortunate to add her to the mix of entertainment that fans will experience when they come to a Chinooks baseball game.”
Assisting Tiffany in some of her duties will be Tyra McFarland, currently a Broadcast Major at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and an intern with “The Morning Blend”.
The Lakeshore Chinooks begin their second season in Wisconsin Rapids on Wednesday, May 29th before returning home on Thursday, May 30th for a 6:35pm start at Kapco Park. The Opening Night festivities will be highlighted by the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, throwing out the first pitch to Hall of Famer and Chinooks Minority Owner, Robin Yount. Bud Selig and Robin Yount forged a friendship that allowed Robin to play his entire professional career with the Milwaukee Brewers.
The pre-game will begin at 6:10pm and will also honor area first responders who serve their communities. Last season’s team award winners, Charlie Markson, Eric Aguilera, Joe Greenfield and Forrest Chadwick will also receive their awards as part of the pre-game ceremonies.
Season, Group and Single game tickets are available, simply visit www.lakeshorechinooks.com or call 262-618-4659 for more information.
Be sure to follow the Chinooks on Twitter @LS_Chinooks and follow Tiffany @TiffanyOgle. You can follow both the Lakeshore Chinooks & Tiffany Ogle on Facebook, as well.
Express Announce New ‘Superstitious Sunday’ Ticket PackageMay 15th, 2013
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – May 14, 2013 – The Eau Claire Express organization knows that most baseball players, and fans, are superstitious. Due to this act that goes back centuries, the Express have created a special package that you just can’t beat.
Here is how it works: If a fan purchases our new ‘Superstition Sunday’ ticket package for $10, they will receive a general admission ticket ($6 value) to the closest Sunday home game and an Express promo hat ($15 value). If the Express win that Sunday game, that means you are our good luck charm and we want you back that next Sunday. The Express will then contact you to receive a FREE ticket to the very next Sunday home game.
If the Express lose any Sunday throughout the season, the ticket package has ended, no matter how long you have held the package for. Fans then have the opportunity to purchase the package again for $10 to try and cheer on the Express to another Sunday victory.
Packages can be purchased at the stadium during the season (especially on Sundays!), or anywhere tickets are sold.
Bullfrogs Baseball Returning to the AirwavesMay 15th, 2013
Frogville, Wis. – The Bullfrogs and 107.1 WOCO are excited to announce that all 70 games for the 2013 season will be broadcast live on the radio. All games will also be streamed live via the Internet on www.greenbaybullfrogs.com.
WOCO, based out of Oconto, Wis., will air the first over-the-air broadcasts for the Bullfrogs since the inaugural 2007 season. The previous five seasons have featured a solely online webcast.
“After being only online for a while, I am simply thrilled to have WOCO as the flagship station for Bullfrogs baseball for season seven here in Green Bay,” Bullfrogs Owner and President Jeff Royle said.
Outside of its sports broadcasts, WOCO features an easy-listening format. Its signal reaches the north side of Green Bay, and stretches throughout the entire Door Peninsula.
“This is a great opportunity for us to reach a broader audience in areas around Green Bay, while still maintaining our very devoted online listenership,” said Brandon Kinnard, the Bullfrogs’ director of broadcasting and media relations.
Kinnard, who plans to graduate from UW Oshkosh in the fall, said this deal represents a strong community service to Bullfrogs fans.
“Traditional radio has always been an important part of baseball culture,” Kinnard added. “I’m excited that we’ll be able to bring that aspect of the game to Bullfrogs fans all around Northeast Wisconsin.”
The first Bullfrogs game on WOCO will be the 2013 season opener, which is two weeks from today on May 29. The Bullfrogs will be in Wausau to take on the Wisconsin Woodchucks. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.
Please call 920-497-7225 or log on to www.greenbaybullfrogs.com for more information.
The Bullfrogs are a part of the 16-team Northwoods League. The Northwoods League has more teams, plays more games, and draws more fans than any other Summer Collegiate League in North America.
Bucks Announce Radio Deal with ESPN 1330 KWLOMay 14th, 2013
Waterloo, IA – The Waterloo Bucks, members of the Northwoods League, have announced that 1330 ESPN (KWLO-AM) and the Bucks have reached an agreement to broadcast all 70 regular season games in 2013.
In addition to the game broadcasts, 1330 ESPN will broadcast live from the Bucks’ annual pre-season Media Day, 5:00-6:00 pm on Tuesday, May 28.
Bill Wells, General Manager, Woodward Radio Group: “We’re very excited to form this partnership with the Waterloo Bucks! The Woodward Radio Group is dedicated to getting involved with the local community and there is nothing more local than Bucks Baseball. I look forward to a long and rewarding relationship. Go Bucks!”
Dan Corbin, General Manager, Waterloo Bucks: “The Bucks are thrilled to team up with KWLO to broadcast our entire schedule this summer. Listening to baseball games over the airwaves is a tradition, and now residents of the Cedar Valley will be able to tune into 1330 ESPN all summer long to listen to Bucks baseball, home and away.”
KWLO is owned by Woodward Communications, Inc., which also operates KXEL-AM, KOKZ-FM and KFMW-FM.
The Bucks will open the 2013 season at home versus the St. Cloud Rox on May 29. Season tickets, group outings, and single-game tickets are currently on sale. For more information, call the Bucks’ Ticket Line at (319) 232-5633. Fans are encouraged to stay in touch with the Bucks in the off-season by utilizing their website at www.waterloobucks.com.
La Crescent’s Traxler learns patience during redshirt season at MinnesotaMay 13th, 2013
Troy Traxler is facing a huge challenge in his first season on the University of Minnesota baseball team.
It’s not learning to hit nasty sliders, block pitches in the dirt or call games.
The most difficult thing for Traxler has been not playing at all.
The La Crescent High School graduate is being redshirted as a freshman for the Gophers. Traxler practices every day, works out, and spends time with his teammates, but he can only sit and watch on game days.
“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do because I am so competitive,” Traxler said. “To come up here and be on the baseball team and have to sit out an entire year, it’s tough. I wish I was out there. But it’s been a great learning experience, and I have matured a ton over the last year.”
Traxler, a catcher/outfielder, signed with the La Crosse Loggers last September and expects to be with the team when it opens the 2013 season May 29 at Battle Creek, Mich.
Obviously, he can’t wait to play in a real game for the first time in almost a year.
“I’m really looking forward to having fun and playing every day — just getting into a full baseball season,” Traxler said.
Traxler faced another major challenge even before he joined the Gophers and committed to the Loggers.
Late in the 2011 football season, Traxler suffered a torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder and had surgery that November.
Traxler was assured by the Gophers baseball coaches that they would honor his National Letter of Intent. He skipped hockey season to rehabilitate his shoulder and was ready to play baseball again by the Lancers’ 2012 season opener.
The only concession Traxler made to his injury was moving to second base for most of the high school season. He batted .357 with 10 RBI and 21 stolen bases and was catching again by the end of the American Legion season.
Now, the shoulder is as strong as ever. Traxler has been working in practice as a catcher, with some occasional time in the outfield.
“It’s absolutely 100 percent; it’s actually doing really good right now,” Traxler said. “It’s a huge sigh of relief. It definitely makes all the rehab worth it.”
Life as a redshirt freshman hasn’t been all bad. In addition to giving Traxler time to bring his shoulder back to full health, it has allowed him to get up to speed on the college game and develop friendships on the team.
“I’ve made all kinds of adjustments,” Traxler said. “Being from a smaller school, I was pretty raw. My talent carried me though, and now we focus so much on fundamentals and technique. There’s so much of baseball to learn that I never knew existed.”
Gophers junior outfielder Bobby Juan, a Central High School graduate who is preparing for his third summer with the Loggers, has helped Traxler make the transition to college baseball.
“I think he’s really taking it well,” Juan said. “He took his redshirt serious, trying to learn the college game and he’s taken a lot of steps to mature, learning from older players and getting tips here and there, and that will help him a lot going into his first collegiate season and with the Loggers.”
Traxler has been waiting a long time to play for the Loggers. His family bought season tickets for the team’s first season, 2003, and Traxler went to dozens of games growing up.
“My dad (Russ) and I went to a lot of the games the first year,” Traxler said. “We would go to the park all the time. I’d be bugging him all day to go to a Loggers game. I was one of the kids chasing after foul balls all the time.”
That fueled Traxler’s dream to play for the Loggers. He revealed it to his mother, Kristi, one day.
“She told me, ‘It’s not that easy. You’ve got to be pretty good,’” Traxler said.
Traxler was certainly good in high school. He took over as a starter as a freshman in 2009 and helped the Lancers win the Class AA state championship. Two more state appearances followed in his career, and he was All-State as a junior and senior.
The Loggers recognized Traxler’s talent and invited him to catch bullpen sessions in the summer after his freshman year. He showed up about a dozen times, when he didn’t have a Legion practice or game, to work with the team’s college pitchers.
“That was a great learning experience,” Traxler said. “It was the first time I got to be around Division I players. I learned a ton about what everybody’s going through to see what they do and the things they focus on.”
La Crescent baseball coach Rick Boyer, who managed the Loggers in 2006 and ’07, thinks Traxler will thrive in the daily grind of Northwoods League baseball.
“He’s going to improve tremendously as a player,” Boyer said. “I know Troy will be able to hit at that level and run and hopefully get an opportunity to catch. He’s going to compete and give all he has every day.”
Said Traxler: “It’s been a dream of mine to play for the Loggers. It’s a great opportunity to mature as a player, and I hope to do just that this summer.”
Rubber Ducky ‘River’ Race Returns on June 8thMay 2nd, 2013
Madison, WI – May 1, 2013. Madison Parks, the Madison Parks Foundation, the Madison Mallards and West Bend are teaming up once again to host the Rubber Ducky ‘River’ Race. This year, the event will be at Goodman Pool with the rubber ducks racing down the two slides. This fun filled event will be on June 8th from 10:30 – 11:30 am. All proceeds will benefit the Goodman Pool scholarship fund.
You may purchase Rubber Ducks in advance at MallardsBaseball.com or on the day of the event. There will be a limited number of Rubber Ducks available so we encourage event-goers to get there as early as possible or to pre-purchase. All age groups are welcome to participate.
The grand prize for the winner of the Rubber Ducky ‘River’ Race will be a party for 20 at the “Duck Pond” and the opportunity to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Additional prizes will be awarded for 2nd and 3rd place.
“The proceeds from the Rubber Ducky ‘River’ Race have provided over 200 children scholarships for swimming lessons at Goodman Pool,” says Kevin Briski, Madison Parks Superintendent. “Madison Parks and the Madison Parks Foundation thank the Mallards and West Bend for being partners in this event and supporting the scholarship fund.”
In addition to the Rubber Ducky ‘River’ Race, Maynard G. Mallard will be on hand to greet fans and take pictures. Kids can enjoy bouncy houses, decorate their own duck to take home, and participate in many fun games before going into the pool area to watch the race. Concessions will be provided by Goodman Pool. Rubber Ducky ‘River’ Race event attendees may receive $1/off daily admission to the Goodman Pool Family Swim on Saturday, June 8. Please be sure to purchase a special entrance bracelet at the concession stand.
The Mallards will host their season opener against the Eau Claire Express on May 29th at 7:05 pm at the “Duck Pond.” Single-game tickets are on-sale now! Contact the Mallards at 608-246-4277, visit MallardsBaseball.com or stop by our ticket office to purchase today.
The Madison Mallards are part of the 16-team Northwoods League. The Northwoods League has more teams, plays more games, and draws more fans than any other Summer Collegiate Baseball League in North America. In 2013, the Northwoods League will celebrate its 20th season.
Woodchucks & City of Wausau Announce Stadium RenovationsApril 16th, 2013
The Wisconsin Woodchucks and the Macdonald Family, in partnership with the City of Wausau will announce plans today to renovate Athletic Park and develop a Neighborhood Park adjacent to the Stadium.
The renovation of Athletic Park, which is estimated to cost $2,700,000 dollars, will be paid for entirely with private funds. The renovation will feature premium seating in the bowl with four-top table seating at field level and drink rail seating on the concourse. There will be two new Luxury Suites that will accommodate 10 to 20 people and a new press box. In future years, additional phases of the renovation would include new bleachers, retail areas, concession stands on the first base line and new group outing decks. The renovated Athletic Park will be a valuable community asset with the ability to attract other events to the City of Wausau in addition to Northwoods League Baseball games.
At the same time, The City of Wausau and The Macdonald Family have agreed to development of a Neighborhood Park adjacent to the stadium. The Macdonald Family will donate two residential properties located along North 5th Street and $20,000 toward the development of the Neighborhood Park. The Neighborhood Park will be a positive addition to the Athletic Park neighborhood providing residents with a valuable community asset. It will contribute to the revitalization of the Athletic Park neighborhood.
The Woodchucks have selected The Samuels Group for the renovation of Athletic Park. The renovation of Athletic Park and development of the Neighborhood Park is projected to begin at the conclusion of the Wisconsin Woodchuck 2013 season with completion for the 2014 season.
Los Angeles Dodgers find prospect Paul Hoenecke’s hot bat in cold regionApril 11th, 2013
Former Bullfrog having success in his second season
“They’ll change their mind in May.”
Hoenecke is from Wisconsin, playing four years for Wisconsin-Milwaukee before the Los Angeles Dodgers took him in the 24th round of the 2012 draft. He immediately made the Dodgers’ scouting department look good, leading the Arizona League with a .382 batting average.
The Loons had a second consecutive rainout Wednesday, ending a season-opening, seven-game homestand with a 2-3 record. The Loons begin a four-game series Thursday at the Dayton Dragons.
“Even compared to Arizona, I would prefer to be here,” Hoenecke said. “And it’s miserable weather here right now. But playing in Arizona was weird. There weren’t any fans. It was a beautiful facility, but it just didn’t feel the same as something like playing here.”Hoenecke played his high school baseball in Wisconsin (West Bend West), his college baseball in Wisconsin (Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and his summer wood-bat baseball in Wisconsin (Green Bay Bullfrogs).
But he was ready to leave for Arizona when the Dodgers picked him.
“I was just grateful that someone picked me,” Hoenecke said. “I didn’t have a great senior season. I didn’t care how old I was or how old anyone was in Arizona. I wanted to show the Dodgers they made a good choice. It exceeded my expectations.”
Hoenecke, 21, was second in the Arizona League in on-base plus slugging (1.064) and third in total bases (107).
He also surprised the Dodgers with his versatility on defense. During his four years at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Hoenecke began as a third baseman, then moved to second as a sophomore. In his final two seasons, Hoenecke played both catcher and first base.
“The Dodgers had me at first base and outfield, but I started taking some grounders at third, fooling around,” Hoenecke said. “They liked my action around third and put me there.
“I prefer third base over first base and definitely over the outfield. At third base, you always have to be ready … it’s the hot corner. I enjoy playing both. Wherever they need me, that’s where I go.”
Hoenecke, a left-handed hitter, leads the Loons after five games with a .438 batting average, seven hits, three doubles and a homer. He also paces Great Lakes in total bases (13) and slugging (.813). He’s played two games at first and three at third.
“I don’t put any goals as far as numbers, but I do see myself as a .300 hitter,” Hoenecke said. “But you can’t get caught up in numbers. If at the end of the day, I have good, solid at-bats, the numbers will be there.”