BY MICK TIDROW | Ball State Sports Link
Summer baseball in the Northwoods League is like no other collegiate league of its kind. With a 72-game regular season schedule, it has a Minor League Baseball format with structure that resemble the minors.
And that is the beauty of it.
People often ask, “You would really like spend your entire summer around baseball, everyday for 72 (and more) days and not be able to relax?”
Well, yes. Truth be told, baseball is relaxing as sports in general are. It makes spending the summer at the ballpark much more enjoyable and it is not seen as work. Not in the slightest.
Hiking, biking, being outdoors and exploring the world are all areas of life I enjoy, but being around the baseball diamond with the smell of the grass, pine tar, sunflower seeds, gum and the rest of the ballpark scents makes the summer enjoyable.
Working with the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters this summer has been an experience I am already grateful for, and I will be for years to come because of the chance to be at the ballpark everyday.
Sometimes we can fall into a routine and get too comfortable before realizing we only get a certain amount of chances before it is all over. Walking in on the first day to Witter Field in Wisconsin Rapids had a chilling feel to it (there was ballpark work to be done the first two weeks before the season, but even then the field still had a feel to it).
The old Minor League ballpark that the Rapids Twins (highlighted by the legendary career of Moe Hill, Charlie Manuel, Craig Nettles, and many more) called home for many years has a pulse. A vibrancy to it that is unexplainable until stepping onto the concourse.
A historic field used by the Rafters since 2010 has become the home of one of the best summer colligates summer teams in the country. With 18,000 people in the community, baseball is taken serious as a main attraction for the town. To be immersed in the culture, community and identity of the town is special. It is baseball country. Everyone knows everyone in a town like Rapids, and to see fans and players join together to create a successful environment and an atmosphere people want to be around is special.
Fans are coined Cranberry Crazies in Rapids because of the amount of: A) Cranberries grown near the city and B) the crazy and fun atmosphere they bring to the field on each home game. Seriously, watch out. They love their Rafters baseball.
The Northwoods League season is over halfway over, and time moves faster and faster everyday. Road trips, batting practice, 21 straight days of games before a day with no game, interviews and more all make each day worth it.
A schedule of 72 games seems daunting in the span of less than 80 days, calling each game on the air both at home and on the road. It can be easy to look at the schedule and see how many games are left and give a big eye roll. However, as the summer has gone on, taking it one game at a time and realizing what an opportunity this is moves ahead as the priority.
I grew up in a small town in Petersboro, Utah. Technically, it is not even a town because it is not on a map. It is an “unincorporated area.” No postoffice, no gas station, no stop lights.
Playing baseball growing up in this small town taught me several things, but one thing stood out: everyone knows what is going on with the baseball teams and peoples lives. The feeling of a close knit group of people at home helped give me an idea what I wanted when I went to college. A group that worked well together, took care of one another and never stopped trying to make each other better.
And that is where Ball State and Sports Link came into play.
During my senior year of high school, I had an itch to either play baseball in college — or broadcast sports. The first did not happen, and I turned to broadcasting and media.
Walking in the first day to Sports Link as a freshman gave me the feel of family, friends and a place everyone could thrive. Each upperclassmen reached out and extending an open hand, attempting to make it an atmosphere members want to be a part of. It is a major reason why I have a strong passion for broadcasting sports. The people.
These first three years at Ball State have been some of the best years of my life, and it helps remind me I am in a profession that I love and want to be in.
The preparation Sports Link helped give me to be ready for any challenge — no matter where I am — helped lead me to Wisconsin Rapids.
That close knit, baseball loving community? Yeah, that is Wisconsin Rapids, reminding me everyday the feeling of being home and around people who love the game.
Putting the headset on at 7:05 pm CST with 1,600 Cranberry Crazies everyday this summer is a blessing. It makes every moment worth it.
“Here comes the 0-1… swing and a drive….”
We can let your imagination take over.