Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Witter Field

All photos of Witter Field available on Flickr.

Over the off-season the Northwoods League announced it would be adding two new teams for this season. There had been a lot of speculation that one would be located in Waukesha, but the location of the proposed ballpark was too controversial for the city to move forward with construction and greener pastures were sought. When one of the expansion teams found a home in Wisconsin Rapids, Pete and I were very excited to make the trip up I-39 to watch some more home-state ball. The team is owned, in part, by the owner of the Madison Mallards, and run by the former assistant GM of the Mallards, so we knew they would put on a good show. In February the team announced a "Name the Team" contest. After a little research, I submitted the names Rafter, Rivermen, and Boggers. Fans voting eventually determined the team would be known as the Rafters and I won a free 9-pack for my efforts.

On Sunday, June 6, my girlfriend Katie and I made the 2 hour drive from
Madison to Wisconsin Rapids to take in the Rafters inaugural home opener. Pete had been in attendance at the first ever Rafters game earlier that week in Waterloo. We arrived a half hour before the game was scheduled to start and I was immediately impressed. Wisconsin Rapids had been home to a Midwest League affiliate of the Twins for many years, but the team moved away in 1983 and this was professional baseball's return to the Rapids. Witter Field is located in a small park which serves as the practice fields for the high school located across the street. While the ballpark dates to 1953, it felt almost brand new. The grandstand bleachers all had a fresh coat of paint and were sparkling for opening day. There is a new team store, built to resemble a log cabin, and concession stand located down the left line and a children's play are in right field. The team store is small and was quite crowded before first pitch. The fans were very excited about the return of baseball to the Rapids and were snapping up team gear very quickly. The menu at the concession stand was adequate but not spectacular. Lines were long as the staff was still learning how to operated their equipment, but that problem should be solved as the season wears on.

The Rafters have struggled in their first campaign. On the night we were there, starting pitcher Matt Baudino gave the Rafter 4 solid innings, aided RF Cody Koback's throwing out Eau Claire's Steve McGuiggan trying to score to end the third, before loading the bases and leaving with one out in the 5th. The Rafters bullpen could not hold the Express, allowing four runs in the 5th and 2 more in the 6th to put the game away. The Rafters also struggled at the plate, scraping together only 5 hits and striking out 8 times.

Like a Mallards game, the was more entertainment than just the ballgame. In-game events included the dizzy bat race and Roscoe P. Rafter, the team mascot pulling children around the diamond on a tractor. After the game, the human cannonball soared over the infield and there were fireworks beyond the outfield fence. In all, it was an excellent opener for the Rafters and I look forward to my next visit to the Rapids.

park stats and rankings:
aesthetics - 6
views from park - 4 (residential neighborhood)
view to field - 8 (room supports obstruct some views)
surrounding area - 5
food variety - 5
nachos - not available!
beer - 8 (wide variety, $3 for 16 oz)
vendor price - 9 (9-pack includes all you can eat dogs, brats, burgers, chicken, and soda)
ticket price - 8 ($6 for bleachers)
atmosphere - 10
walk to park - 6
parking proximity - 10 (lots available also plenty of parking on neighborhood streets)
concourses - 7
team shop - 7

best food - pulled pork philly
most unique stadium feature - fully covered grandstand
best jumbotron feature - n/a
best between-inning feature - dizzy bat race

field dimensions - 320/375/320
starters - Matthew McDaniel (EC) v. Matt Baudino (WR)
opponent - Eau Claire Express
time of game - 2:51
attendance - 2,065
score - 7-0 L
Brewers score that day - 4-3 W

Brewers 27-37, -9.0 (3 @ Rockies, 3 v. Twins)
Reds 36-28, +0.5 (3 @ Mariners, 3 @ Athletics)
Twins 37-27,
+2.5 (3 @ Phillies, 3 @ Brewers)

Erik - 13
Peter - 19

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