The Northwoods League is a collegiate summer baseball league comprising teams of the top college players from North America and beyond. All players in the league must have NCAA eligibility remaining in order to participate. Players are not paid, so as to maintain their college eligibility. Graduated senior pitchers are also eligible to play in the Northwoods League. Each team may have four of these players at a time.
Teams are run similar to a professional minor league teams, providing players an opportunity to play under the same conditions, using wooden bats and minor league specification baseballs. Teams play 72 games scheduled from late May to mid-August. The season itself is broken into two halves, with the winners of each half in each of the two divisions, along with two other wild card teams with the next best records, playing against each other to determine a divisional champion. The divisional champions then meet in a best-of-three playoff for the league championship.
Established in 1994, the Northwoods League was the first for-profit summer collegiate baseball league. It has more teams, draws more fans, and plays more games than any other summer collegiate baseball league. The Northwoods League drew over 1.1 Million fans for the fourth consecutive year in 2017, far outdistancing its closest rival in the summer collegiate baseball world. In fact, the Northwoods League drew more fans than three of the four short-season affiliated professional leagues in 2017. Many of the teams in the league play in ballparks formerly occupied by professional clubs from the Midwest League, Prairie League, Northern League, and Frontier League. The wooden bat circuit allows communities deemed too small for professional ball to continue to enjoy high quality, competitive baseball during the summer months. The Northwoods League was the first summer collegiate baseball league to broadcast on the ESPN network, and currently webcasts all of its games.
The teams are located in the Northwoods region of the Upper Midwestern United States and Northwestern Ontario, mostly in the U.S. states of Minnesota (five teams) and Wisconsin (nine teams); also with three teams in Michigan and one team each in Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota, Indiana and Ontario.
Over 200 league alumni have gone on to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) with 91 alumni entering the MLB ranks from 2013 to 2017. Alumni Max Scherzer, the 2017 National League Cy Young Award winner and American League runner-up Chris Sale faced each other as the starting pitchers in the 2017 and 2018 Major League Baseball All-Star Games.
|No. of teams||22|
|Countries|| United States|
|Fond du Lac Dock Spiders (2018)|
|Most titles||Rochester Honkers (5)|
|Great Plains West|
|Bismarck Larks||Bismarck, North Dakota||Bismarck Municipal Ballpark||1,600|
|Mankato MoonDogs||Mankato, Minnesota||Franklin Rogers Park||1,400|
|Rochester Honkers||Rochester, Minnesota||Mayo Field||2,570|
|St. Cloud Rox||St. Cloud, Minnesota||Joe Faber Field||2,000|
|Willmar Stingers||Willmar, Minnesota||Bill Taunton Stadium||1,500|
|Great Plains East|
|Duluth Huskies||Duluth, Minnesota||Wade Stadium||4,200|
|Eau Claire Express||Eau Claire, Wisconsin||Carson Park||3,800|
|La Crosse Loggers||La Crosse, Wisconsin||Copeland Park||3,550|
|Thunder Bay Border Cats||Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada||Port Arthur Stadium||3,031|
|Waterloo Bucks||Waterloo, Iowa||Riverfront Stadium||5,000|
|Great Lakes West|
|Fond du Lac Dock Spiders||Fond du Lac, Wisconsin||Herr-Baker Field||2,000|
|Green Bay Booyah||Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin||Capital Credit Union Park||3,359|
|Lakeshore Chinooks||Mequon, Wisconsin||Kapco Park||3,000|
|Madison Mallards||Madison, Wisconsin||Warner Park||7,500|
|Wisconsin Woodchucks||Wausau, Wisconsin||Athletic Park||3,850|
|Wisconsin Rapids Rafters||Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin||Witter Field||1,560|
|Great Lakes East|
|Battle Creek Bombers||Battle Creek, Michigan||C.O. Brown Stadium||4,701|
|Kalamazoo Growlers||Kalamazoo, Michigan||Homer Stryker Field||4,000|
|Kenosha Kingfish||Kenosha, Wisconsin||Simmons Field||3,218|
|Kokomo Jackrabbits||Kokomo, Indiana||Kokomo Municipal Stadium||4,000|
|Rockford Rivets||Rockford, Illinois||Rivets Stadium||3,279|
|Traverse City Pit Spitters||Traverse City, Michigan||Wuerfel Park||4,200|
|St. Croix River Hounds||Hudson, Wisconsin||New Hudson Ballpark||TBD|
|1995||Kenosha Kroakers||Manitowoc Skunks||2-0|
|1996||Waterloo Bucks||Rochester Honkers||2-0|
|1997||Rochester Honkers(2)||Waterloo Bucks||2-1|
|1998||St. Cloud River Bats||Rochester Honkers||2-0|
|1999||Rochester Honkers(3)||St. Cloud River Bats||2-1|
|2000||St. Cloud River Bats(2)||Waterloo Bucks||2-0|
|2001||Wisconsin Woodchucks||St. Cloud River Bats||2-1|
|2002||Waterloo Bucks(2)||Brainerd Mighty Gulls||2-0|
|2003||Wisconsin Woodchucks(2)||St. Cloud River Bats||2-1|
|2004||Madison Mallards||Duluth Huskies||2-0|
|2005||Thunder Bay Border Cats||Madison Mallards||2-1|
|2006||Rochester Honkers(4)||Thunder Bay Border Cats||2-0|
|2007||St. Cloud River Bats(3)||Eau Claire Express||2-0|
|2008||Thunder Bay Border Cats(2)||Madison Mallards||2-1|
|2009||Rochester Honkers(5)||La Crosse Loggers||2-1|
|2010||Eau Claire Express||Rochester Honkers||2-1|
|2011||Battle Creek Bombers||Mankato MoonDogs||2-0|
|2012||La Crosse Loggers||Mankato MoonDogs||2-0|
|2013||Madison Mallards(2)||Duluth Huskies||2-0|
|2014||Lakeshore Chinooks||Mankato MoonDogs||2-0|
|2015||Kenosha Kingfish||St. Cloud Rox||2-0|
|2016||Wisconsin Rapids Rafters||Eau Claire Express||2-0|
|2017||St. Cloud Rox(4)||Battle Creek Bombers||2-1|
|2018||Fond du Lac Dock Spiders||Duluth Huskies||2-1|
The Northwoods League, in addition to being a developmental league for players and coaches, is also a developmental league for umpires. The concentrated game schedule, travel, and Minor League-like game conditions give NWL umpires a pre-professional experience. Since the League's inaugural season in 1994, 44 of its former umpires have furthered their careers in affiliated professional baseball.
The League recruits its umpires from the two umpire schools whose curricula have been approved by the Professional Baseball Umpire Corps. (PBUC): The Minor League Umpire training Academy and Harry Wendelstedt School for Umpires. The umpires ultimately chosen are usually among the top school graduates who were then selected to the pre-season, PBUC sponsored Umpire Evaluation Course.
The NWL contracts with nine three-man crews during the regular season, a six-man crew during the mid-season All-Star game, and six umpires for both the divisional playoffs and championship series.
The Battle Creek Bombers are a baseball team that plays in the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer baseball league. All players on the team must have NCAA eligibility remaining in order to participate. Their home games are played at the C.O. Brown Stadium in Battle Creek, Michigan. The team is currently owned by the Northwoods League.Bismarck Larks
The Bismarck Larks are a baseball team that plays in the Northwoods League (a collegiate summer baseball league). Based in Bismarck, North Dakota, the Larks play their home games at Bismarck Municipal Ballpark.Fond du Lac Dock Spiders
The Fond du Lac Dock Spiders are a baseball team that plays in the Northwoods League (a collegiate summer baseball league). Based in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, the Dock Spiders play their home games at Herr-Baker Field on the campus of Marian University. The Dock Spiders are the current champions of the Northwoods League, winning the 2018 championship over the Duluth Huskies 2 games to 1.Green Bay Booyah
The Green Bay Booyah (formerly the Green Bay Bullfrogs) are a baseball team that plays in the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer baseball league. The team joined the league as the Bullfrogs as an expansion franchise for the 2007 season along with the Battle Creek Bombers. Before the 2019 season, the Bullfrogs renamed to the Booyah, moved from their original staduim of Joannes Stadium to Capital Credit Union Park and switched divisions from the Northwoods League South Division to the Great Lakes West Division.Kalamazoo Growlers
The Kalamazoo Growlers are a baseball team based in Kalamazoo, Michigan that plays in the Northwoods League, a summer collegiate baseball league. The Growlers were founded in 2013 and played their first game on May 28, 2014, losing to the then defending league champion Madison Mallards 6-2. The Growlers played their first home game on May 30, 2014, beating the Battle Creek Bombers 13-3. The team plays its home games at Homer Stryker Field.Kenosha Kingfish
The Kenosha Kingfish are a baseball team that plays in the Northwoods League (a collegiate summer baseball league). Based in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Kingfish play their home games at Simmons Field.La Crosse Loggers
The La Crosse Loggers are a La Crosse, Wisconsin based baseball team playing in the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer baseball league. They play at Copeland Park.
The Loggers are one of 22 teams in the Northwoods League, playing 72 games per season, from late May through mid-August. The Northwoods League is a summer collegiate league that provides an opportunity for college players to spend their summers and display their talents to professional scouts. Players must be enrolled in college and have at least one year of athletic eligibility to participate. The league is designed to give college players the minor league experience, providing players an opportunity to play under the same conditions using wooden bats and minor league specification baseballs, experiencing overnight road trips, and playing nightly before fans in a stadium.Lakeshore Chinooks
The Lakeshore Chinooks are a baseball team based in Mequon, Wisconsin, United States and a member of the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer baseball league. The Chinooks play their home games at Kapco Park on the campus of Concordia University Wisconsin.
Summer collegiate leagues provide an opportunity for college players to spend their summers and display their talents to professional scouts. Players must be enrolled in college and have at least one year of athletic eligibility to participate. College players gain experience with the opportunity to play under the minor league conditions using wooden bats, minor league specification baseballs, overnight road trips, and playing nightly before fans.
College interns gain experience by handling a number of duties at Chinooks games including ticketing, operations, on-field promotions, and webcast production. Games are webcast via the Northwoods League website.
Chinooks players stay with local host families during the season. More than two dozen local families provide housing.Ticket prices are $13 reserved box, $10 reserved grandstand, $7 general admission.Madison Mallards
The Madison Mallards are a collegiate summer baseball team based in Madison, Wisconsin that plays in the Northwoods League. Warner Park on Madison’s North side is the team's home field. The 2018 season marked the Mallards' 18th season.Rochester Honkers
The Rochester Honkers are an amateur baseball team in the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer baseball league. Their home games are played at Mayo Field in Rochester, Minnesota. They have won the Northwoods League championship five times, most recently in 2009.
Andre Ethier of the Los Angeles Dodgers is a former Honker from 2002. In 2010, 22 of their players were drafted by organizations affiliated with Major League Baseball.Rockford Rivets
The Rockford Rivets are a baseball team that plays in the Northwoods League (a collegiate summer baseball league). Based in Rockford, Illinois, the Rivets play their home games at Rivets Stadium in nearby Loves Park.St. Cloud Rox (collegiate summer baseball)
The St. Cloud Rox are a baseball team that play in the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer baseball league. Their home games are played at the Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud, Minnesota. As of June 26, 2018, 198 former Northwoods League players have gone on to play Major League Baseball. Most notable: Curtis Granderson, Andre Ethier, Jordan Zimmerman, Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, Juan Pierre, Jeff Weaver, & Pat NeshekThunder Bay Border Cats
The Thunder Bay Border Cats are a baseball team that plays in the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer baseball league. The league's only Canadian team, their home games are played at Port Arthur Stadium in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The Border Cats have been Northwoods League champions twice, defeating the Madison Mallards two games to one in both 2005 and 2008. They also were in the Northwoods League championship in 2006, but lost to the Rochester Honkers.As of 2014, the Border Cats have sent three players to the major leagues. Matt Mangini was the first to make the jump, playing 11 games for the Seattle Mariners in 2011. Shortstop Jonathan Diaz followed two years later, playing four games with the Boston Red Sox in 2013. Diaz also spent time with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014, almost making the team out of spring training. Pitcher Blaine Hardy became a regular in the Detroit Tigers bullpen in 2014.Traverse City Pit Spitters
The Traverse City Pit Spitters are a baseball team in the Northwoods League (a collegiate summer baseball league) which is scheduled to begin play for its 2019 season. Based in Traverse City, Michigan, the Pit Spitters will play their home games at Wuerfel Park.Waterloo Bucks
The Waterloo Bucks are a baseball team that plays in the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer baseball league. Their home games are played at the Riverfront Stadium in Waterloo, Iowa. They were founded in 1995. They originally played in the South Division, but switched to the North Division in 2010.
On September 29, 2014, The Cedar Rapids Ball Club, Inc. announced that they had officially completed the purchase and taken over operations of the team. The Cedar Rapids Ball Club, Inc. is the also the owner of Cedar Rapids Kernels.Willmar Stingers
The Willmar Stingers are a baseball team that plays in the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer baseball league. The Stingers played their inaugural season in 2010. The team plays its home games at Baker Field at Bill Taunton Stadium.
On June 3, 2010, the franchise's first ever hit and run were recorded by former Willmar Cardinal and current Cleveland Indians minor leaguer Jordan Smith.
The Stingers were honored with the Northwoods League Organization of the Year Award in 2010. Stingers co-owner Marc Jerzak credited "Stingers fans, host families, sponsors and city officials" for "[making] the 2010 Inaugural season a memorable one."Wisconsin Rapids Rafters
The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters are a baseball team based in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin that plays in the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer baseball league. The Rafters play home games at historic Witter Field.Wisconsin Woodchucks
The Wisconsin Woodchucks are an American baseball team that plays in the Northwoods League, a collegiate summer baseball league. They play their home games at Athletic Park in Wausau, Wisconsin.