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Play ball! New team in Kenosha

HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW NORTHWOODS LEAGUE BASEBALL?

THE TEAMS

1) Alexandria (Minn.)

2) Duluth (Minn.)

3) Mankato (Minn.)

4) Rochester (Minn.)

5) St. Cloud (Minn.)

6) Willmar (Minn.)

7) Thunder Bay (Ontario)

8) Waterloo (Iowa)

9) Battle Creek (Mich.)

10) Eau Claire (Wis.)

11) Green Bay (Wis.)

12) La Crosse (Wis.)

13) Mequon (Wis.)

14) Madison (Wis.)

15) Wausau (Wis.)

16) Wisconsin Rapids

THE TEAM NICKNAMES

A) Stingers

B) Rafters

C) Woodchucks

D) Bucks

E) Border Cats

F) Mallards

G) Chinooks

H) Rox

I) Honkers

J) Loggers

K) Beetles

L) Bombers

M) Express

N) Huskies

O) MoonDogs

P) Bullfrogs

Updated: March 24, 2013 1:16AM



Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Thought about that saying after spending some time talking recently with Conor Caloia, who is one of three partners who are bringing quality baseball back to our area in the summer of 2014 (next year).

Specifically, Conor and fellow owners Steve Schmitt and Vern Stenman are bringing baseball to Simmons Field on Sheridan Road in Kenosha.

Way back in the day (1984-1992), Simmons was home to the minor league Kenosha Twins of the Class A Midwest League.

In June of 2014, Simmons will be home to an expansion franchise in the Northwoods League, which is a summer program (70-game season) for college baseball players from all parts of the country who are good enough that they could get drafted by the pros in the next year or two.

And right about now, you’re probably thinking the same three words as everybody else who has eyes trained on this newspaper page or computer screen:

Lake. County. Fielders.

Truth be told, it’s almost eerie how the early plans for the Kenosha team in the collegiate league are paralleling early plans for the Lake County Fielders minor league baseball franchise that lasted something close to two years in Zion before the train completely wrecked and all the action went from the field to the courtroom.

(Does a name-the-team contest sound familiar?)

These days, all that’s left to remind Zion of the Fielders is a baseball diamond that’s becoming a community eyesore and, of course, the lawsuits filed by and against the City of Zion and the Fielders.

Yet, that said, this new project involving college players does feel like it can be successful.

For starters, the owners of the Kenosha team have lower overhead: They don’t have to pay players — they’re college kids.

The Fielders players were pros and had to be paid ... or were supposed to be paid. Who knows?

Next, the Kenosha team already has a stadium to play in — Simmons Field.

The Fielders didn’t have a stadium, wanted/expected/needed/hoped for Zion to build it a stadium, and never got a permanent stadium.

And, of course, with baseball now coming to Kenosha, there never will be a stadium in Zion, as the Wisconsin people who were expected to come to Zion to watch baseball now have their own place to go to watch their own team play.

And chances are, they’ll get followers from Lake County to watch their games, as well.

As for the level of play, figure on it being comparable to what the Fielders put on the field in Year 1.

The difference is this: Many of the Fielders players were drafted by the pros and didn’t make it.

The Northwoods League players are college stars who will be drafted by the pros down the road, and probably most of them won’t make it to The Big Show.

So, the quality of ball will be the same. Simmons Field is easy to get to from the northeast corner of Lake County.

Plus, the owners reportedly have signed an 11-year lease with the City of Kenosha to play home games at Simmons.

According to Conor, the team will be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate the stadium. And its total rent for the 11 years breaks down to $31,727 and 28 cents per year.

If you’re interested in ticket prices, here’s what they charged last year to watch Northwoods League ball in Mequon, Wis., home of the Lakeshore franchise: $11 for box seats, $8 for grandstand seats and $5 for general admission.

Currently, there are seven teams in the Northwoods League based in Wisconsin — Madison, Wisconsin Rapids, Mequon, Wausau, Green Bay, La Crosse and Eau Claire — and 16 teams in all.

The same three men who own the Kenosha team also own the teams in Madison and Wisconsin Rapids.

Conor said the Madison team averaged 6,000 fans per home game.

Whether they can approach that number for 35 home games in June/August will be interesting to see.

But, for now, 17 months before the first pitch is thrown, it sounds like a solid plan.

And it will sound even better if they call the team the Kenosha K-Nines.

Play ball!



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