Monday, May 17, 2010
Collegiate Summer Leagues...Baseball At Its Best.
I have mentioned this no fewer than 50 times on this blog that college baseball players have more demands on their time than all of the major sports combined...yet get the fewest number of scholarships. Well, summer makes up for the lack of scholarship love with the Collegiate Summer Leagues. The Big Three are the Northwoods, Cape Cod and Alaskan...The Cape Cod may have the edge in prestige, depending on who you talk to, but the Northwoods has more teams, a whole lot more games, much bigger crowds and a support group of host families that gives players a near cost free experience.
This year, the Northwoods has expanded to 16 teams in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan and Thunder Bay, Canada. The teams will play a record 70 games, excluding play-offs, giving players an ample amount of at-bats to hone their skills for their subsequent college fall work-outs. Teams have rosters of 25 or more...with heavy emphasis on pitchers. With that many games, college coaches don't want their future rotation and bullpen arms worn and weary.
But what makes this summer experience a blast is the love they get from the fans and team management. And this makes it a whole lot of fun for the players. Make no mistake, the Northwoods League is a money maker. Crowds of up to 10,000 fans are common...sell-outs are the norm and zany promotions, funny stadium address announcers and famous Wisconsin brats and beer, make this wildly profitable while also providing an incredible experience for players...For those players that aspire to be collegiate baseball players, one of the highlights, given the chance, will be a summer or two in the Northwoods League.
Yet, this is not just a bunch of fun and games...These teams are assembled to win and winning is everything to many of these fans. There are players that just finished their freshman and sophomore years from the SEC, Pac 10, Big 12, Conference USA, Big West, WAC, Mountain West, West Coast Conference, Big 10, ACC, Big East and more on these teams. Competitive players from top leagues around the country show their stuff and talents to pro scouts, fans and autograph seeking kids. As are all of the Collegiate Summer Leagues, players use only wood bats, making this a good barometer for how a player would stack up in the pro game. Another test for the players is how they will stack up to the rigors of minor league travel. Long bus rides of up to 8 hours are similar to what many minor league players experience. That trip from Minnesota or Wisconsin to Battle Creek, Michigan is a grueling one.
And speaking of the Minor Leagues, many of the promotions are straight out of a Bull Durham scene. Want a chuckle? Here are some of the promotions for a few of the teams...These are grouped into events that are happening on specific nights...There are so many businesses that want a piece of the action, that there are multiple promotions on the same night:
The Human Cannonball David "The Bullet" Smith Jr. returns for a post-game launch, presented by the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee and its exhibit, True Evel: The Amazing Story of Evel Knievel, beginning in July! Harley-Davidson Museum & Evel Knievel Capes.
Charter Communications & Chet's Car Care Magnet Schedule Night
(all fans). Also...it's Bucky Book Night!
Duluth Trading Company "Fix Plumber's Butt" Night with Longtail T-Shirts & Duluth Trading Company Ball Cap Night.
Post-Game Fireworks presented by TDS
Dukes of Hazzard Night featuring the original Rosco P. Coltrane(James Best) presented by Charter Communications.
Wisconsin Rapid Rafters
Payroll Company Whiplash the Cowboy Monkey! Meet Whiplash the dog riding Capuchin Monkey! Post-game he'll herd sheep in the outfield!
Bacon Appreciation Night!...presented by Hormel.
Mr. Potatohead night, presented by NAPA (500F)
4th Annual Burrito Eating Championship with Burracho's!..Service Master Night!...Friday Night Fish Fry!..."Logger Hour" with Leinenkugel's - $1, 12 oz. tap beers from 5:30-6:30 p.m.
"TV Tunes" Night with WXOW TV 19! Do you know your TV Tunes? Win Prizes from WXOW TV 19! 95.7 The Rock Night on the Fan Deck! Best Buy Game Night on the Fan Deck!
Green Bay Bullfrogs
Frogtoberfest...It's German night at the Jo. Be one of the first 750 fans through the gates 21 and over and pick up a yard glass presented by Miller. Capped off with a party on the Leinie Deck and a performance by Pat McCurdy.
Jeremiah Bobble Tongue...Another Jeremiah to add to your collection, but nothing like what you already have. Presented by AT&T for the first 500 fans.
Summertime St. Patty's Day...Celebrate St. Patty's Day in July with specialty Bullfrogs Irish jerseys and green Bud Light.Presented by Shenanigan's Pub and Bud Light. Jerseys will be auctioned off to benefit the Breast Cancer Family Foundation.
This is Americana folks...this is what makes baseball the greatest game in the world. For all of the players going to the Northwoods or any other Summer Collegiate League...Play hard, have fun and enjoy your summer.