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.
|No. of teams||22|
|Traverse City Pit Spitters (2019)|
|Most titles||Rochester 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. 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. 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.
Map of teams
Notable Northwoods League alumni
- Jeremy Accardo, Alexandria Beetles, 2001
- Scott Alexander, La Crosse Loggers, 2008
- Cody Asche, Duluth Huskies, 2009-2010
- Clint Barmes, Kenosha Kroakers, 1998, Waterloo Bucks, 1999
- Joe Bisenius, Duluth Huskies, 2003
- T.J. Bohn, Brainerd Mighty Gulls, 2001
- Rob Brantly, La Crosse Loggers, 2009
- Lance Broadway, Wisconsin Woodchucks, 2004
- Trevor Brown, La Crosse Loggers, 2011
- Mike Burns, Brainerd Mighty Gulls, 1998–1999
- Kole Calhoun, Eau Claire Express, 2007-2009
- Matt Cepicky, Waterloo Bucks, 1997
- Matt Chapman, La Crosse Loggers, 2012
- Jermaine Clark, Kenosha Kroakers, 1995
- Willie Collazo, Waterloo Bucks, 1999
- Allen Craig, Alexandria Beetles, 2003, 2005
- Paul DeJong, Wisconsin Woodchucks, 2014
- Chris Demaria, St. Cloud River Bats, 2000–2001
- Thomas Diamond, St. Cloud River Bats, 2002–2003
- Andy Dominique, Kenosha Kroakers, 1995
- Jeff Duncan, Waterloo Bucks, 1998
- Lucas Duda, Alexandria Beetles, 2006
- Andre Ethier, Rochester Honkers, 2002
- Dave Gassner, Wausau Woodchucks, 1998
- Jay Gibbons, Manitowoc Skunks, 1996–1997
- Tom Gorzelanny, St. Cloud River Bats, 2001
- Curtis Granderson, Mankato Mashers, 2001
- Jack Hannahan, Mankato Mashers, 1999
- Daniel Ray Herrera, La Crosse Loggers, 2005
- Tyler Hoechlin, Battle Creek Bombers, 2007
- Justin Huisman, St. Cloud River Bats, 1998
- Brett Jackson, La Crosse Loggers, 2007
- Casey Janssen, Wisconsin Woodchucks, 2001
- Jimmy Journell, Waterloo Bucks, 1997, 1999
- Bobby Kielty, Kenosha Kroakers, 1996
- Andrew Knapp, La Crosse Loggers, 2011
- Mark Lowe, Wisconsin Woodchucks, 2002–2003
- Jay Marshall, Rochester Honkers, 2002
- Doug Mathis, Duluth Huskies, 2003
- Mark Melancon, Duluth Huskies, 2004
- Paul McAnulty, Mankato Mashers, 2001
- Carlos Muñiz, Alexandria Beetles, 2002
- Pat Neshek, Wisconsin Woodchucks, 2000
- Josh Newman, Alexandria Beetles, 2001
- Wes Obermueller, Wausau Woodchucks, 1995, Waterloo Bucks, 1996–1997
- Jordan Pacheco, La Crosse Loggers, 2005
- Val Pascucci, Rochester Honkers, 1998
- Juan Pierre, Manitowoc Skunks, 1996
- Robb Quinlan, Dubuque Mud Puppies, 1996, St. Cloud River Bats, 1998
- Erasmo Ramirez, Kenosha Kroakers, 1995
- Mike Rouse, Brainerd Mighty Gulls, 1999
- Chris Sale, La Crosse Loggers, 2008
- Max Scherzer, La Crosse Loggers, 2004
- Shawn Sedlacek, Dubuque Mud Puppies, 1996
- George Sherrill, Kenosha Kroakers, 1997
- Drew Smyly, Duluth Huskies, 2009
- Ryan Spilborghs, Madison Mallards, 2001
- Eric Thames, La Crosse Loggers, 2007
- Curtis Thigpen, Waterloo Bucks, 2002
- Jeff Weaver, Dubuque Mud Puppies, 1995
- Josh Willingham, Austin Southern Minny Stars, 1998–1999
- Danny Worth, Alexandria Beetles, 2006
- Ben Zobrist, Wisconsin Woodchucks, 2003
- Jordan Zimmermann, Eau Claire Express 2006
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.
- "Donovans sign to play summer ball". The Pennington School. Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
- Reichard, Kevin (September 10, 2017). "2017 Affiliated Attendance by League". Ballpark Digest. August Publications. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
- Platt, Adam (June 22, 2018). "How the Northwoods League quietly became the dominant baseball league in the Upper Midwest". MinnPost. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
- Spedden, Zach (October 17, 2018). "St. Croix River Hounds Launch Delayed". Ballpark Digest. August Publications. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
- Grossfield, Edie (August 17, 2009). "We are the champions". Post-Bulletin. Rochester, Minnesota.
- "Mallards Capture First Northwoods League Championship Since 2004". WMTV NBC 15. August 16, 2013.
- Hunt, Michael (August 21, 2014). "Lakeshore Chinooks named top summer collegiate team". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- "Champion Kingfish reel in another honor". Kenosha News. October 19, 2015. Archived from the original on March 25, 2016.