Thursday, June 5, 2014

Northwoods League Opening Week

All photos of Mallards home opener and Chinooks home opener available on Flickr.

Last Tuesday was one of my favorite days of the year and the unofficial start to my summer - Northwoods League Opening Day!  The college summer league that already has more teams and more games than any other summer league added two teams and two games this year, for totals of 18 and 72 respectively.  Franchises in Kalamazoo and Kenosha were added this year into the South, and Eau Claire moved to the North to balance out the divisions.  The league starts a day earlier this year and added two scheduled home-and-home doubleheaders to increase the number of games.  I'm really curious how the doubleheaders will work.  It's an awesome idea in theory, but things will have to fall into place perfectly for some of these teams to make it to the other city between games.  I'm particularly looking at the day that Thunder Bay and Duluth play a matinee in Canada, then drive 4 hours over the border to Minnesota.  That aside, I'm really excited about it and I'm seriously debating "calling in sick" to go to one.

I attended the Mallards home opener on Wednesday, and the Chinooks home opener on Thursday.  The Mallards game was originally just a regular game that Megan got free tickets to, but the scheduled opener was rained out on Tuesday, so Wednesday ended up being Opening Day Doubleheader!  On top of that, I got to see the inaugural game of the Kalamazoo Growlers franchise as the visiting team.  Madison and K-Zoo split the doubleheader, 6-2 and 5-6.  The only guy I recognized from last year's championship Mallards team was Alex Bacon, besides of course Donnie Scott, the manager.  We only saw a couple innings of the first game because we got there late and had tickets that came with all you can eat and drink buffet until 7, so we had a responsibility to dominate that.  But the 2nd game saw the Growlers jump out to a big early lead and the Mallards claw their way back to make a game of it.  Former Packer great Sterling Sharp was neither sterling nor sharp for the Mallards, allowing 6 runs and 3 walks in less than 2 innings.  Every year I like to identify a Mallard early in the season I think will be team MVP and this year I'm going with 1B Brian Rodemoyer out of Illinois State.  He only went 1-3 but I really like his swing and he has the build to hook a lot of homeruns into the short porch in right.  The only notable change at the ballpark this year was the gaping hole left by the departure of longtime PA guy Aaron Sims.  It's not an exaggeration to say he's probably at least half of the reason the Mallards have built such a following in Madison.  Only time will tell if the new guy will be a decent replacement, but early indications point to a no.  Sims left for browner pastures in Kenosha, and I'm looking forward to hearing his distinctive humor at a Kingfish game later this season.

Thursday was a typical chilly night at Kapco Park in Mequon.  It doesn't matter if it's 85ยบ in the city - the park is right on Lake Michigan, so it always gets down into the 50s by sunset.  I hope my apartment 2 blocks from the lake in Milwaukee will be like that all summer because I hate hot weather.  Anyways, it was a packed house and traffic was terrible so I missed out on the Bob Uecker bobblehead.  It was awesome to see so many people at the game and the front plaza full of people.  Included in the 2100+ crowd were part owners and Brewer legends Robin Yount and Bob Uecker, Milwaukee celebrity lawyer David Gruber, Ron Roenicke and Joe Block from the Brewers, and part of the UW basketball team to throw out the first pitch.  The surprising star of the game was not a starting pitcher or a hitter, but G.J. Strauss of the Chinooks who pitched 5 scoreless innings in relief and picked up the win.  Like Warner Park, not much new at the Chinooks park.  They still have one of the more bountiful and unique food selections in the league and for the first time I had something other than the fish fry.  They were supposed to be Irish nachos with tomatoes onions and cheese on fries, but they ran out of vegetables and just started using pulled pork.  I didn't say stop.

My goal for the rest of the Northwoods League season is see the new Kenosha team as well as the renovation in Wausau, and I also purchased tickets to the All-Star Game in Mequon.  I'm super excited for all three!  I'm eying up the July 2nd Kingfish game for the King Elvis bobblehead and Tribute to Elvis Night.  I don't think I need to explain myself.

Brewers 35-25, +4.5, (3 @ Pirates, 3 @ Mets)
Reds 27-31, -7.0 (3 v. Phillies, 4 v. Dodgers)
Twins 28-29, -3.5 (3 v. Astros, 3 @ Blue Jays)

Erik - 3 (+7 worked)

Peter - 18

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