Here’s good news for college baseball players who are looking for a terrific place to play this summer. The Northwoods League is expanding from 14 teams to 16 teams for the 2010 campaign with the addition of new clubs in Willmar, Minn., and Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
Each team is allowed to carry 26 players on its roster, so the league has created spots for 52 new guys by adding two clubs.
The Northwoods League drew more than 800,000 fans during the 2009 season for an average of 1,725 per game, which is better than some minor league teams. More towns wanted to join the league, so expansion was happily granted.
“I think it says a lot of good things,” said Curt Carstensen, the Director of Operations for the Northwoods League. “Cities in our region noticed how successful other teams in our league have been and they wanted to become a part of it.”
In addition to expanding the number of teams, the Northwoods League also is expanding its number of games. Each team will play 70 games in 2010, compared to a 68-game regular season in 2009, and there now will be eight teams in two divisions.
The Willmar Stingers will be joining the North Division with the Alexandria Beetles, Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers, Duluth Huskies, Mankato Moon Dogs, Rochester Honkers, St. Cloud River Bats and Thunder Bay Border Cats. All of those teams, except Thunder Bay, are located in Minnesota. The Border Cats are located in Ontario, Canada.
Wisconsin Rapids will join the Eau Claire Express, Green Bay Bullfrogs, La Crosse Loggers, Madison Mallards, Wisconsin Woodchucks, Battle Creek Bombers and Waterloo Bucks in the South Division. All of those teams are located in Wisconsin, except for Battle Creek (Mich.) and Waterloo (Iowa).
The Northwoods League has adopted a new scheduling format for 2010 as well. Each team will face only teams from its own division during the regular season, with no games against teams from the other division. That’s a change from 2009. Under the new format, each team will play 10 games against each of its division rivals. The league schedule will be announced on Monday, Jan. 4.
Four teams will advance to the playoffs, with two teams from each division. The semifinals and finals will be best 2-of-3.
There will be room for 416 players in the league at any given time now. Combined with player transactions during the season, league officials estimate more than 450 players will play in the organization in 2010.
Players who are interested in the league can go to the league web site at www.NorthwoodsLeague.com for more information and registration material. The league is restricted to college players who have remaining eligibility.