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Monday, June 16, 2014

Milwaukee’s Northwoods Collegiate Baseball Team

Lakeshore Chinooks play an exhausting summer schedule

Lakeshore Chinooks
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Based out of Rochester, Minn., the Northwoods League is a summer collegiate baseball league dedicated to preparing college players to play professional baseball by mimicking the conditions of the minor league system. On the road and at home, the teams complete an exhausting 72 games in 76 days, from mid May to late August, all with a wooden bat of course.

Since concluding its inaugural season in 1994, the Northwoods League has expanded to include 18 different teams consisting of some of the best college baseball players in North America. Divided into two divisions (North and South), the league features one Canadian team, one Iowa team, two Michigan teams, six Minnesotan teams and eight Wisconsin teams, including the Eau Claire Express, the Green Bay Bullfrogs, the Kenosha Kingfish, the La Crosse Loggers, the Madison Mallards, the Wisconsin Woodchucks, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters and the Lakeshore Chinooks. 

One of the league’s newest affiliates, the Lakeshore Chinooks debuted during the 2012 season, placing fourth in the South Division with a 35-35 record. Last season, the team finished first in the South Division and were ranked 21st on Perfect Game USA’s 2013 list of the Top 50 Summer Collegiate Teams. 

Owned by a group of local business leaders, entrepreneurs and baseball greats, like Bob Uecker, Milwaukee Bucks General Manager John Hammond, National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Robin Yount, Dutchland Plastics owner Carl Claerbout, and Kapco, Inc. President and Chinooks majority owner, Jim Kacmacik, the Chinooks call Kapco Park home. Situated on the northeast corner of Concordia University’s Mequon campus, the ultramodern ballpark (12800 N. Lake Shore Drive) is utilized not only by the Chinooks and Concordia University, but also the surrounding community. Featuring a synthetic turf field, standard stadium snacks, delicious alternatives, fan decks, affordable ticket prices and free general parking, it is the perfect setting to enjoy great baseball.    

And while the Chinooks, like their Northwoods League brethren, are technically considered amateurs, fans can count on watching players compete at a very high level. “We have kids from the University of Florida, LSU, UCLA, Southern Mississippi and Michigan State. Seven players [have returned] from last year like Ryan Krill, a first baseman from Michigan State, who is back for his third year, which is just unheard of,” says Chinooks Vice President and General Manager Dean Rennicke. “Their coaches love having them play in the summer. It helps them get better so that when they return in the fall, they’ve matured, they’ve stayed in shape and they’ve gotten bigger, stronger and faster. It’s like summer school for baseball players—you develop and get better.”   

Rennicke would know. He played baseball at UW-Madison before being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, where he spent several years playing and coaching in the minor leagues. While in college, Rennicke competed in summer collegiate baseball leagues and credits the experience he gained playing summer baseball with helping him prepare to play professionally. 

Chinooks Field Manager Eddy Morgan also champions the league’s ability to bring out the best in its players. “We’re looking forward to defending the South Division Championship, but more than anything we’re just looking forward to helping these players, technically and mentally, and giving them the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of the number of scouts that come to our games,” Morgan explains. “This is one of the best training grounds that they have to be able to hit with a wooden bat and complete a long, grinding summer.

“We feel very blessed with the ownership,” Morgan continues. “These are true baseball guys, so we feel grateful to have the resources to help these young men fulfill their dreams, and hopefully, at some point, they’ll be an opportunity for them to play in the big leagues.” 

To learn more about the Lakeshore Chinooks and to view an up-to-date schedule visit northwoodsleague.com/lakeshore-chinooks/.