I split up the home stand because there is a lot to cover and I have a lot of pictures to share. We got home late in the night, but I stayed up a little later watching MLB Network. I woke up pumped because my family was coming today. They started their drive from Georgia at 5 a.m. and drove 14 hours up to Madison. Apparently my sisters complained a lot on the drive. They would be here for three games and I was going to play the second and third one. They came straight to the field and my parents didn’t tell my sisters that I wouldn’t be playing that day- they felt it would engender more whining. So, they got to the stadium 45 minutes before the game and my parents broke the news…they were not happy campers.
Katie, my oldest sister, was upset because she just thought the family drove 14 hours to watch a normal baseball game at a normal baseball park…Well, let’s just say she was surprised when they showed up 45 minutes before the game and the parking lot was jam-packed. At that moment, she and my little sister, Lizzy, began to realize how special the Duck Pond is. Honestly, it’s a place that I cannot do justice explaining in words- you just have to see it.
Since three of my baseball buddies and I decided to live in an apartment in the fall, I have been searching for posters and signage for the walls. I have come across some really cool items at flea markets and thought I would swing by the Mallards’ Garage Sale to see if they had anything interesting. As soon as I stepped into the team store, I found it- a giant 3-foot tall sign with the old Mallards logo. I am excited to bring a little bit of MadTown back to my home at Davidson.
Since I had the day off I busted my butt in the weight room, did resistance sprints, and jump roping before the game. I rewarded myself with a shower, but unfortunately it was smoking hot and as soon as I stepped outside I was sweating again. In the first inning, Nate Theunissen (Central Michigan) hit a grand slam, the Mallards’ first of the year! Everyone in the stadium could go to Denny’s the next day and get a free Grand Slam breakfast! After the game I went to a pizza place in Wisconsin Dells with my family.
We were really lucky because we knew an extremely nice family from Wisconsin Dells. Not only did we meet up with them, but they lent us their lake-side condo for the weekend! The condo was pristine and had a magnificent view of the lake. Everything from the furniture to kitchen looked brand new. My favorite part of the condo, though, was the beds. Everyone of the beds had NAP blankets…if you do not know what NAP blankets are, they are the really soft ones in Sharper Image. I really did not want to wake up, but when we did, we spent Saturday afternoon swimming in Lake Delton.
As you can tell from the picture…I have some work to do on my abs…which I will begin doing as soon as I get back to school (once I get back with my personal trainer, Chaz).
The game went really well. We wore the throwback Madison Muskie jerseys that are pretty small and constricting. It was probably the most I’ve ever sweat in a game and my pants weighed close to 10 lbs. after the game. We won the game 3-2 and Nick Sutherland (Minnesota State- Mankato) had another great outing for us. I got an infield hit during the game, so I got the fear of having my parents drive all the way up for no hits out of the way. Any more in the second game would be gravy.
Bullfrogs 7 (16-10)
Mallards 1 (17-11)
For a typical home game, we are at the field from 2:30 to around 10:30 and most away games, between travel, warmups and the game, take a full day. On home-game days, many of the Mallards like to lift at the Princeton Club to stay in shape and to improve. No matter how hard and long the season is, lifting is a crucial part to keep the body strong and healthy. My coach always says, “Lifting does not break down athletes, it builds players up…games break down athletes.” There is a lot of truth to this, so I try to lift 3 days a week. Jordan Owen (UT Martin), on the other hand, tries to lift 6 days a week. Since summer ball players do not have that much time outside of baseball and development, we need to get money somehow (because most of us are broke college kids).
Today was our first opportunity to do so, and 15 of the players worked a camp for about 600 daycare kids this morning. We all had been assigned jobs like working the dunk tank or the moon bounce, but I chose to do the inflatable hitting tee game. To start, this game is extremely difficult. It is a giant inflatable, where the ball floats on 6 inches of air and you are supposed to hit the wiffle ball into tiny holes on the back panel that read “home run” or “double.” They keep this game out during the Mallards games, so I always try on my way to the dugout and in about 20 swings, I haven’t won yet. So for three hours, I placed the ball on the air-tee and kids aged from 2 to 12 took hacks. I got a lot of enjoyment out of it and there were some really good hitters, and some really bad hitters. Each kid got three swings, but three swings implied contact, so some kids swung 20 times before they actually touched the ball. In the 600 kids that stopped by my station, only 5 of them hit the ball through a hole in the back panel. I decided to change the rules of the game and made up a “single/double/triple/home run” call for each swing. It turned 5 winners into 590 winners. There were still those 10 kids that could never touch the ball. For only working three hours, each player got paid $40. It is really cool that the team provides the players with opportunities like these to 1) Get more involved with the Madison community and 2) Get paid a little for working camps.
I had the game off, so I went to early work, took BP, threw, and then saw Jonathan Crawford (Florida) doing some ab workouts down the left field line. I joined him for the last few and then got read to watch the ball game. Tonight’s big celebrity at the game was WWE Hall of Famer “The Million Dollar Man.” Nick Sutherland (Mankato State), who watched WWE growing up, remembers “The Million Dollar Man,” his catch phrase, and his biggest victory. “The Million Dollar Man” wore a cool jacket with a lit-up dollar sign on his back, and did some of the in-game promotions tonight. I personally do not know much about WWE, but it was still cool to have someone like that at our game.
Tonight’s game was hard to watch- there was no other way to describe it. Unfortunately “The Million Dollar Man’s” superhuman WWE strength did not wear off on us tonight…for some reason, Green Bay has our number this year. We need to come out focused and ready to compete if we want to win against them. Today just wasn’t our day. On the positive note, Matt Juengel (Texas A&M), went 1 for 3 with a walk tonight in his Mallards’ debut. Matt is fresh from his team’s CWS run in Omaha and will be a great addition to our team.
After the game I got to see a Davidson friend of mine, Anne Tabb, who is the girlfriend of Green Bay/ Davidson’s catcher, Daniel Gerow. She lives in Texas and I was so caught off guard seeing her in Madison that I barely had the chance to say hi to her. Fortunately, she will be at tomorrow night’s game and we can catch up then.
Tomorrow we have another camp in the morning, so it will be another early start, but I can’t wait.
Looking to invest in some Gold Bond soon,
photo by: Melissa Lee
Express 8 (8-7)
Mallards 13 (9-5)
This morning I woke up early to work the little kids camp, drove 25 minutes to the field, and then found out the camp was postponed due to rain. I was bummed, but drove back home. When I got home, my host mom asked me if I would be able to fall back asleep, I said that it shouldn’t be a problem. This is one major luxury of playing summer ball a.k.a. not having a real job. I got back home at 9 and slept until 12:30. I hung out with my host brothers, Ryan and Sean, until I went to the field.
The rain continued and the field was soaked when we arrived. It was so soaked that even with no rain, it would barely playable for the game. We started by putting bags of Turface, a QuickDry material, on the field. I got my favorite Davidson shirt all muddy, but fieldwork is a responsibility that you have for being part of the team. It is really nothing some OxiClean won’t knock out.
Since it continued to rain and the field was soaked, some guys planned on not having a game. Not me though, I always mentally prepare for the game until someone tells me it is canceled. We did not take BP today because the field was soaked, but the team came out hot and scored 11 runs in the first inning! That is truly a testament to how much talent this team has. We only scored 13 in the game, but continued to crush the ball the whole game. We should’ve had more than 13, but the umpires blew a home run call where the right fielder ran through the bullpen fence in right and they could not determine if the ball went over the fence or not. They gave Thenussien (Central Michigan) a ground-rule double and he did not score that inning. Our coach got tossed for arguing the call- his first of the year.
Playing these teams you get to meet some really interesting people, and I have learned how small the baseball community really is. The first kid on Eau Claire that I talked to plays at Air Force for an old coach I used to have at Davidson. The second kid on Eau Claire plays at Nebraska where my friend from middle school and high school is a pitcher. Even though I live in Georgia now, I have several friends playing in the Northwoods. Also, with playing each team over eight times a piece, I am bound to make some more.
Waking up early to lift and then get on a bus to Green Bay. Now I will finally get to see our catcher, Daniel Gerow. Can’t wait. Only a .5 game back of first place. Night everyone.
Mallards 3 (5-1)
Woodchucks 1 (1-5)
Today was our sixth straight day with a game. In the spring, we only have three games in a weekend, and then usually have a day off before a game Tuesday (4 games a week). We started our games this summer on June 1st, and have games everyday until June 27th- our first off day. For the non-math majors, that’s 26 straight days with games. So it’s different- it’s a grind…but I love baseball, so I take it as a challenge.
We got to Wausau, WI early today and instead of sitting around at the park, we drove to the Eastbay Outlet store. I had extremely low expectations for the trip, but I ended up getting two nice pairs of shoes for $64…not complaining. Mostly everyone on the team came out with at least one pair of shoes. So the Eastbay Outlet trip was a good call.
Game time came around and it was hot. It was humid and I probably lost 10 pounds of water weight during the game. But, nonetheless we won 3-1. Tonight’s star was Joel Effertz (Madison College) who went 6 2/3 scoreless. We are still short about 10 players due to the draft and college regionals, and Joel was one player who showed up today. I didn’t even know his first name until someone told me in the 3rd inning. But he pitched a great game and helped the team win. Mike Hollenbeck (Central Illinois) hit a two run shot to center in the 3rd- a lot of power from that kid.
Madison, we are coming home. WE are ecstatic to be 5-1 through the first 6 games and look forward to all the craziness that will take place in the Duck Pond tomorrow night. It will be nice not to ride in a bus for a few days and to have fans actually cheering for us. Home opener is tomorrow night at 6:35 central time. Until then, I’m getting some zzz’s and working out in my new kicks, or as Wale would say…”Nike Boots.”
Songs of the day:
The first one goes to “We’ve Got It Going On” by Backstreet Boys just because it’s Jordan Owen’s (UT- Martin) favorite song.
Second: “Just Can’t Get Enough” by Black Eyed Peas. Pretty catchy.
Third: “Nike Boots” by Wale
Mallards 6 (3-0)
Rafters 0 (0-3)
Some exaggeration has taken place on the coaches part on our first road trip. For example, when the coach says we are going to a “good breakfast place,” he means Taco John’s. After a mandatory 9:30 breakfast at Taco John’s, a nap was immediately in order. The game tonight started at 7:30, so we had a lot of time to kill. Since there is literally NOTHING to do in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, we drove 30 minutes to Steven’s Point, WI. The only reason I had ever heard about Steven’s Point before is because of its famous brewery. My family has glasses that I drink milk out of everyday from Steven’s Point because my dad visited there a few years ago. Anyways, the second exaggeration took place when coach said we were heading to the “big college town” of Steven’s Point to hang out for the day. Steven’s Point is home to some small DIII school- far from being a “big college town,” but there was a movie theatre there.
At the movie theatre, guys split up. Some went to X-Men 3, some to Fast Five, but a majority of us went to Pirates of the Caribbean 4. I went to Pirates and enjoyed it. Penelope Cruz, enough said. Then we drove back to the field and got there at 3:30 for a 7:30 game time. More down time. This is what the players in the pros and minors deal with on a daily basis, but the huge amount of downtime is new to me. I’m a guy who is always doing something- but with the crazy game schedule this summer, some time to rest is well needed/ deserved.
Game time! Wisconsin Rapids brought out a crowd of 1,500- pretty fun. Most interesting point of the game was when the Rafters coach got tossed in the first inning. We (The Mallards) have started really hot this summer, partly due to the hot bat of Mike McQuillen (Iowa). McQuillen started the scoring tonight with a home run over the right field fence. Other big hitters for the day were Mike Hollenbeck (Illinois State), Jordan Owen (UT Martin), and Niko Fraser (Elon). The guy with probably the coolest baseball name I have ever head, Cash Collins (Wofford), took the mound today and pitched 6 strong, shut out innings. He was relieved by Zach White who shut down the Rafters for 3 more innings. Mallards won 6-0, pushing their record to 3-0. After the game, the third exaggeration took place. Coach said we were going to get some “Italian food” for dinner, which would be a nice change of pace for us. By “Italian food,” he meant the same pizza we ate after last night’s game. But, it was pretty good pizza, and was free, so I’m not complaining.
We have a 2-hour bus ride back, so we’ll be back in Madison at 1, back at our homes at 1:30. Early morning lift and an early bus ride to Lacrosse, Wisconsin. I’ve heard La Crosse gets great crowds and has a nice stadium. Tonight’s bus movie: Ratatouille. It is hilarious to see a bus full of fully-grown, sweaty college boys watch a Disney movie about a rat chef…but not going to lie, it’s a good movie. As for me, I am listening to some Jeff Golub on the ride home…chillin.
La Crosse, here we come.
Last night the Mallards got back on the winning train with another win on the road against the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters. Tonight will be the series finale, starting at 7:30. You can watch the game for free at http://www.northwoodsleague.tv/. Anyways, Niko Fraser was the chosen “Beer Batter” for last night’s game, and like Tyler Jones the night before, Niko didn’t strike out. This meant the Rafters fans did not get to partake in the $1 beer night. Overall, a great pitching performance by Chris Burgess kept the Rafters at bay, and the Ducks won 3-2.
This morning we woke up again for mandatory breakfast at 9:30 to go to Taco John’s. If you haven’t been to Taco John’s, it is very similar to a Taco Bell. This is where we went to breakfast. Oh…life on the road. The team is going to the movies during the day today- probably to see The Hangover 2- and then resting up before our game tonight.
After the game tonight, we will drive back to Madison, probably get in at 1 or after, and then leave at noon the next day for La Crosse. La Crosse apparently has really large crowds, so that will be a great experience.
Today we traveled to Wisconsin Rapids, WI to play the Rafters in game one of a three-game series. The bus ride was only 2 hours long, we ate sandwiches at some bar as our pregame meal and headed to the field.
This poorly taken photo above was of the field tonight. I wish I had a picture of what I saw while playing first base, but obviously I couldn’t get that done. Tonight was the season opener for the Northwoods League, so of course, the fans were out. 1,600 fans were out tonight- it is hard to believe that there will be 6,000 more at Mallards home games.
One thing that separates the Northwoods League from other summer leagues is that beer is served at the games. It made for an interesting dynamic with drunk fans heckling you and for the guy in the spinny bat competition who fell on his face twice. One promotion a lot of teams do is called the “Beer Batter.” The announcer will select one Beer Batter from the other team and if that batter strikes out during the game, beer is $1 for the rest of the game. Unfortunately for Rafters fans, Tyler Jones was the Beer Batter tonight and he went 4-4 with no strikeouts.
For only having our first practice yesterday, we came out strong and put up 16 hits. Big nights came from Mike McQuillen (from Iowa) who went 4-5, Tyler Jones (from Long Island U.) who went 4-4, and Niko Fraser (Elon) who went 3-5. Great pitching from Rusty Shellhorn (Texas Tech), Nick Sutherland (Minnesota State- Mankato), and Zach White (Wake Forest) also highlighted the 4-2 victory.
Winning is always good. This team has a lot of talent. It is a fun group with a lot of smiles and jokes around the locker room and dugout. We eat tomorrow’s breakfast at Taco John’s- it will be interesting. Then we hang out all day until going to the field at 4 for a 7 o’clock game tomorrow night.
This morning I woke up and had my normal peanut butter and banana waffles (if you haven’t tried them before- DO IT) for breakfast. Great, as usual. Went to the “Duck Pond” (baseball field) for an early practice where we got to test seven different models of wood bats. The Northwoods League is sponsored by Rawlings, and all teams have a huge supply of Rawlings bats which they give the players. Today I tried about four of them and ended up picking up a 33 inch. 143B model Rawlings bat. For most of you, that means nothing. To tell you the truth, I don’t even know what it means…but I liked it. After getting used to the bats, the first practice let out and some of the guys went to the gym.
The deal on the bats is everyone picks the model they like and the coach gives them two bats. If a player breaks one, they have to autograph the broken bat and it is sold at the Mallards games to little kids. Then, the coach will give you a brand new bat. Pretty cool.
I don’t mean to brag, but there are some major perks about being a Mallard. Besides the team, bats, and competition, one is that you get a free summer membership to the Princeton Club gym. This isn’t any ordinary gym…this is what I call a “classy gym.” The people at the front desk all wore suits, and the gym had really nice machinery. Short tangent- I actually like working out in dingy weight rooms with grease all over the place. It just seems to get me in the right state of mind…Anyways, this gym was not one of those, but I had a good workout nonetheless.
Went home, rested up, and read some Lisbeth Salander before going back to the field at 4. This time, some more guys had come in from their schools. Many schools just finished playing their spring season and more guys will be trickling in as they get eliminated from the postseason. Fortunately these guys came in at a good time today, because our first game is tomorrow! Two guys from my conference (SoCon) came in today (Niko Fraser from Elon and Cash Collins from Wofford). The other guys I didn’t know, but am in the process of meeting them. One thing is for sure- we will be good!
After practice, a few guys went downtown to get a bite to eat and we landed on Wando’s Sports Bar and Grill. I ate a Mushroom & Swiss Burger (starting a summer of healthy eating) and it was above average. I left the restaurant and saw a giant glare on the side of a building overlooking the lake. This is how I stumbled upon the Memorial Union Terrace. Dang!!! What a site- just in time for sunset (above). Making matters better, three girls came over to chat and made me feel welcome in Madison.
Tomorrow we leave for Wisconsin Rapids (that’s the name of the city) for a three-game series. We stay overnight there, so it will be a great chance for the team to bond. Can’t wait to get me feet wet in the Northwoods League tomorrow night!
p.s. I also gave in today and got this really cool Brewers hat. Sorry J.T. (Braves fan).