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Root, Root, Root for the Home Team!

6/12/2017 - Jared Rasmussen

Family-Friendly, Sports & Outdoors

It was nearly midnight on the evening of November 2, morning of November 3, 2016:  Game 7 of the World Series.  The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians were in the 10th inning of a back-and-forth contest to decide which franchise would see its first championship in generations.  In the top of the inning, Chicago utility man Ben Zobrist entered the batter’s box to face Cleveland reliever Bryan Shaw, looking to erase a 0-for-4 start to his night.  As the game crept into its fourth hour, Zobrist slapped a double down the left field line, allowing his teammate from second base to round third and score, giving the Cubs a 7-6 lead en route to their first World Series title in 108 years.

Before his heroics made him a World Series MVP, Ben Zobrist was a college kid – contemplating his future but trying to find a way to make baseball a part of it.  As a 22-year-old, his journey took him to Wausau, Wisconsin, to play as a member of the Wisconsin Woodchucks of the Northwoods League.  For what it’s worth, Zobrist won a championship there, too - though the league only had in the 10 teams at the time.

So what does all of this have to do with Kenosha? Now with 20 teams and in its 24th season, the Northwoods League has become a premier destination for collegiate baseball players hoping to forge a career playing the game with wood bats. And since 2014, Simmons Field has been home to the Kenosha Kingfish, who opened their 4th season on June 1 with a 9-6 win over the Green Bay Bullfrogs.

Why should you attend a Kenosha Kingfish game? 

Reason one:  Baseball!
Many players travel a long distance – as far as California or Florida. Some come from as near as Illinois or the Milwaukee area right here in Wisconsin. They all stay with host families - for the opportunity to participate in daily drills and games – and call Kenosha home for the summer.  The talent crop is high and select.  In the home opener victory, I saw first baseman Derek Bangert from Bradley University hit a 3-run homer of about 350 feet to left field – not a cheap shot by any means, against a pitcher who recorded five of the first six outs via strikeout.  While it will be several years before we know if the next Ben Zobrist (or other Northwoods League alumni and current MLB stars Chris Sale, Curtis Granderson, or Eric Thames) is on the roster, you will be able to see such aspiring players for yourself at a fraction of the price of the neighboring Major League teams.

Reason two: Fun! 
Games are a blast! With many of the ballpark fare that you’d expect – peanuts, beer, cotton candy, and the like, as well as more substantive hot dogs, burgers, chicken, and pizza – you need not worry about missing dinner.  Between-inning promotions feature everything from beach balls to toilet seat races.  Young adult competitors, no doubt cajoled by their loved ones, participated in ribbon dancing and life-size “Hungry, Hungry Hippo” games, lying on their bellies on scooters, acting the role of the hippos.  Bringing a youngster to the ballpark?  He or she will have enough fun playing in one of the bounce houses, trying to win a bobblehead in a game of ring toss, or playing in one of two playhouse/sandbox areas behind the right field bleachers, near the Festival Foods Backyard.  The Miller Lite Fish Bowl offers picnic seating, complimentary buffet, and private “facilities” for your group of any size.

Reason three: A combination of 1 & 2! 
Of the 2,000 or so fans at the home opener, about 25% exclusively watched the game; 5% were kids or their parents running around the play areas; and maybe another 5% were there for parties or conducting business.  The remainder were fully immersed in both the baseball and the atmosphere.  Fun and family-friendly, a Kenosha Kingfish game offers something for everyone. The team even hosts a series of other events throughout the year - like movies at the ballpark!

Who knows, in a few years, you may be telling your friends that you saw the next Major League star (like our Northwoods League buddy, Zorbrist) when he was only just a college kid, playing out his summers in the Northwoods League in beautiful Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Jared Rasmussen

Community Blogger

Carthage College Graduate. Kenosha Resident by way of Racine.  Roommate to Allie, the cat. Living near HarborPark. Interests include art, animals, sports, music, and dining at Kenosha restaurants.

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