Northwoods League

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.

Northwoods League
No. of teams22
Countries United States
Most recent
Traverse City Pit Spitters (2019)
Most titlesRochester Honkers (5)

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 four sub-divisions playing against each other to determine a sub-divisional champion in a best-of-three series. The sub-divisional champions then meet in a winner-take-all game to determine a divisional champion. The divisional champions then meet in a winner-take-all game 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.[1] 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.[2] The purpose of the league is to develop players while college baseball teams are not allowed to work out. 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.


In small cities it may be hard to find the financial stability in a newly founded baseball league. The Northwoods League (NWL) realized it needed to gain significant revenue from sponsors in order to succeed. Radatz wanted majority of the revenue to come from sponsors: 2/3 of the revenue would come from sponsors and the remainder from ticket sales, concessions, and team merchandise. It is important to have 2/3 of the revenue before the first game was ever played in the season.[3]


Northwoods League
Division Team Location Stadium Capacity
Great Plains West
Bismarck LarksBismarck, North DakotaBismarck Municipal Ballpark1,900
Mankato MoonDogsMankato, MinnesotaFranklin Rogers Park1,400
Rochester HonkersRochester, MinnesotaMayo Field2,570
St. Cloud RoxSt. Cloud, MinnesotaJoe Faber Field2,000
Willmar StingersWillmar, MinnesotaBill Taunton Stadium1,500
Division Team Location Stadium Capacity
Great Plains East
Duluth HuskiesDuluth, MinnesotaWade Stadium4,200
Eau Claire ExpressEau Claire, WisconsinCarson Park3,800
La Crosse LoggersLa Crosse, WisconsinCopeland Park3,550
Thunder Bay Border CatsThunder Bay, Ontario, CanadaPort Arthur Stadium3,031
Waterloo BucksWaterloo, IowaRiverfront Stadium5,000
Division Team Location Stadium Capacity
Great Lakes West
Fond du Lac Dock SpidersFond du Lac, WisconsinHerr-Baker Field2,000
Green Bay BooyahAshwaubenon, WisconsinCapital Credit Union Park3,359
Lakeshore ChinooksMequon, WisconsinKapco Park3,000
Madison MallardsMadison, WisconsinWarner Park7,500
Wisconsin WoodchucksWausau, WisconsinAthletic Park3,850
Wisconsin Rapids RaftersWisconsin Rapids, WisconsinWitter Field1,560
Division Team Location Stadium Capacity
Great Lakes East
Battle Creek BombersBattle Creek, MichiganC.O. Brown Stadium4,701
Kalamazoo GrowlersKalamazoo, MichiganHomer Stryker Field4,000
Kenosha KingfishKenosha, WisconsinSimmons Field3,218
Kokomo Jackrabbits[4]Kokomo, IndianaKokomo Municipal Stadium4,000
Rockford RivetsRockford, IllinoisRivets Stadium3,279
Traverse City Pit Spitters[4]Traverse City, MichiganTurtle Creek Stadium4,200
Division Team Location Stadium Capacity
St. Croix River Hounds[4]Hudson, WisconsinNew Hudson BallparkTBD

Map of teams

Current team locations:
  Great Plains West Division
  Great Plains East Division
  Great Lakes West Division
  Great Lakes East Division

Franchise timeline


Season Champion Runner-up Result
1994 Rochester Honkers --- ---
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)[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)[6] Duluth Huskies 2-0
2014 Lakeshore Chinooks[7] Mankato MoonDogs 2-0
2015 Kenosha Kingfish[8] 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
2019 Traverse City Pit Spitters Eau Claire Express 3-2

Notable Northwoods League alumni


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 eleven 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.


  1. "Donovans sign to play summer ball". The Pennington School. Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  2. Reichard, Kevin (September 10, 2017). "2017 Affiliated Attendance by League". Ballpark Digest. August Publications. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  3. Platt, Adam (June 22, 2018). "How the Northwoods League quietly became the dominant baseball league in the Upper Midwest". MinnPost. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  4. Spedden, Zach (October 17, 2018). "St. Croix River Hounds Launch Delayed". Ballpark Digest. August Publications. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  5. Grossfield, Edie (August 17, 2009). "We are the champions". Post-Bulletin. Rochester, Minnesota.
  6. "Mallards Capture First Northwoods League Championship Since 2004". WMTV NBC 15. August 16, 2013.
  7. Hunt, Michael (August 21, 2014). "Lakeshore Chinooks named top summer collegiate team". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  8. "Champion Kingfish reel in another honor". Kenosha News. October 19, 2015. Archived from the original on March 25, 2016.
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