The league that helped launch the careers of Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, Curtis Granderson and more than 100 current Major Leaguers will have a team playing in the former Aviators Stadium next summer. The Northwoods League announced today that it has awarded the area a franchise, which is owned and operated by Rockford Baseball Properties, LLC.
We bring the up-and-comers to the fans, the players these fans will someday be watching at the major-league ranks, NWL president Dick Radatz, Jr. said. This is the largest organized baseball league in North America, and weve been doing it for 22 years.
This league is about mutual exploitation: the players exploit us to get better, and we exploit them for their talents.
The summer wood-bat league is only for non-paid players with remaining college eligibility and it begins at the end of May and ends mid-August. There are 72 games in 76 days, simulating a high-class, minor-league season.
Last year the league which also includes teams out of Madison, Wisconsin, as well Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Duluth, Minnesota drew more than 1 million fans to its 18 teams. There were 194 former Northwoods League players taken in the last MLB Draft, with a list of alumni including White Sox pitcher Sale, 2013 Cy Young Award winner Scherzer, and All-Stars Granderson, Ben Zobrist and Andre Ethier.
While still listed on the Frontier League website, the Aviators have ceased to exist, and the old and new teams will have no affiliations. The new team will announce its manager soon, and the roster is already growing.
The Rockford team, which will be named at a later date, signed a five-year lease with Gurnee-based Northside Bank, the owner of the ballpark at 4503 Interstate Blvd, and hired Chad Bauer as the general manager. Bauer, expected to someday take some ownership in the team, successfully launched Northwoods League organizations in Green Bay and Mequon, Wisconsin.
Its a good market here, and baseball can work, we all believe that, Bauer said.
And he thinks the Northwoods League might be the right format to make it in Rockford.
This has proven to be one of the best training grounds for a career in baseball, Bauer said.
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