Sunday, June 2, 2013

Northwoods League Opening Week

All photos from the Mallards opening homestand available on Flickr.

Memorial Day is recognized throughout America as the unofficial start to summer, which for me means another exciting season of summer collegiate baseball.  Despite torrential downpours and flooding throughout the Midwest, the Northwoods League kicked off its 20th season this past Wednesday.  I'm beating a dead horse at this point when I mention that the Northwoods League and Warner Park are my favorite league and ballpark in the country, so the week of Memorial Day is always one of the more exciting times of the year for me.  It's especially exciting this year because I moved into a house a couple months ago that is 4 blocks from the park!  I can't even describe how amazing it is to be able to walk to (and stumble home from) a ballgame, and inevitably when the day comes that I move again, I don't know how I'm going to live without this convenience.  The storms predicted for Friday evening stayed to the east of Madison and I was able to take in the first game of my 7-pack in full.

The major renovation that spanned 3 offseasons may be complete, but that certainly doesn't mean a lack of improvements at the ol' ball yard.  The most notable addition this year is the ticket/team office building.  It's totally within the philosophy of Steve Schmitt and Vern Stenman to put fans first, so all these years, the Mallards' own staff has had to make do in very cramped conditions, making this additional 6,500 SF of space long overdue.  The building is clad in shiny aluminum siding and had all of its doors and windows donated by Feldco in exchange for advertising.  The second notable addition to the park is the new jumbotron, which is over 4x larger than its predecessor.  The fact that a summer collegiate team has a jumbotron at all is an accomplishment, so perhaps I shouldn't complain, but in my opinion it's not used very properly.  At Friday's game, really it was just showing the feed of the game on a 3-second delay.  Showing the live game while at the game just does not make any sense to me, unless it's in an area where some fans have restricted views.  It seems like with the way the Mallards approach a night at the ballpark that there should be more wacky animations and advertising on the board, and more player information.  Other than those two items, it's business as usual at Warner Park.  Still an amazing selection of food and craft beers, and a ridiculous promotional schedule.  I obtained a Bike Safety Maynard bobblehead and a sweet Mallards cap before hitting up the buffet and settling in for the game.  I really love my seats this year - they are one section right of homeplate, 4 rows up in the 200 level.  It sounds ridiculous, but last year I was actually so close to the field I was obstructed by the dugout.  The seating bowl is right on top of of the field at this park, perhaps illegally so if it were a minor league field.

The Mallards fell 4-3 to the Loggers.  Usually in this league, it does not take more than a couple games to figure out who the standouts of a team will be.  It was pretty clear a week into the season last year that Tyler Marincov and Jeff Zimmerman would be special players.  2B Eric Cheray was the biggest contributor on this night, with a homerun in the 4th and a couple nice defensive plays.  I've also got an eye on cleanup hitter Sam Koenig because he goes to my alma mater UW-Milwaukee.  3B Genote Jackson also looks to have some pretty good skills.  It's too early to tell but those are the players I made note of.  The day after I was there, C Mike Fitzgerald knocked in 7 on two homeruns, so he will also be a player to watch.  SP Jeff D'Amato only went 4 innings for the Mallards and managed to only give up one run despite struggling with command.  Madison made a game of it in the 9th thanks to some shotty LaCrosse defense but in the end it wasn't enough.  SP Collin Lee of the Loggers pitched very well, he struck out 6 over 6, had good movement on all of his pitches with a large variation in velocity.  Also of note from this game is that the Mallards have really sweet uniforms this year.  They're kind of like the old Astros uniforms with the multi-colored stripes in the front, and the Mallards version also features a silhouette of the Madison skyline.  I'm hoping I can obtain one of those in the team store next year for $30 like I did the jersey I have now.

Brewers 21-33, -15.5 (3 v. Athletics, 4 v. Phillies)
Reds 35-21, -2.5
(3 v. Rockies, 3 v. Cardinals)
Twins 24-29, -5.5 (3 @ Royals, 3 @ Nationals)

Erik - 8 (+3 worked)

Peter - 13

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