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Northwoods League

The Northwoods League is a collegiate summer baseball league comprising teams of the top college players from North America and beyond. All players in the league must have NCAA eligibility remaining in order to participate. Players are not paid, so as to maintain their college eligibility.

Northwoods League
Northwoods League logo.svg
Sport Baseball
Founded 1994
No. of teams 20
Countries  United States
Most recent
St. Cloud Rox (2017)
Most titles Rochester Honkers (5)
Official website

Teams are run similar to a professional minor league teams, providing players an opportunity to play under the same conditions, using wooden bats and minor league specification baseballs. Teams play 72 games scheduled from late May to mid-August. The season itself is broken into two halves, with the winners of each half in each of the two divisions, along with two other wild card teams with the next best records, playing against each other to determine a divisional champion. The divisional champions then meet in a best-of-three playoff for the league championship.

Established in 1994, the Northwoods League was the first for-profit summer collegiate baseball league. It has more teams, draws more fans, and plays more games than any other summer collegiate baseball league.[1] The Northwoods League drew over 1.1 Million fans for the fourth consecutive year in 2017, far outdistancing its closest rival in the Summer Collegiate Baseball World. In fact, the Northwoods League drew more fans than 3 of the 4, Short-Season Affiliated Professional Leagues in 2017.[2] Many of the teams in the league play in ballparks formerly occupied by professional clubs from the Midwest League, Prairie League, Northern League, and Frontier League. The wooden bat circuit allows communities deemed too small for professional ball to continue to enjoy high quality, competitive baseball during the summer months. The Northwoods League was the first summer collegiate baseball league to broadcast on the ESPN network, and currently webcasts all of its games.

The teams are located in the Northwoods region of the Upper Midwestern United States and Northwestern Ontario, mostly in the U.S. states of Minnesota (five teams) and Wisconsin (nine teams); also with two teams in Michigan and one team each in Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota, and Ontario.

Over 185 league alumni have gone on to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) with 91 alumni entering the MLB ranks from 2013 to 2017. Alumni Max Scherzer, the 2017 National League Cy Young Award winner and American League runner-up Chris Sale faced each other as the starting pitchers in the 2017 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.




Season Champion Runner-up Result
1994 Rochester Honkers --- ---
1995 Kenosha Kroakers Manitowoc Skunks 2-0
1996 Waterloo Bucks Rochester Honkers 2-0
1997 Rochester Honkers(2) Waterloo Bucks 2-1
1998 St. Cloud River Bats Rochester Honkers 2-0
1999 Rochester Honkers(3) St. Cloud River Bats 2-1
2000 St. Cloud River Bats(2) Waterloo Bucks 2-0
2001 Wisconsin Woodchucks St. Cloud River Bats 2-1
2002 Waterloo Bucks(2) Brainerd Mighty Gulls 2-0
2003 Wisconsin Woodchucks(2) St. Cloud River Bats 2-1
2004 Madison Mallards Duluth Huskies 2-0
2005 Thunder Bay Border Cats Madison Mallards 2-1
2006 Rochester Honkers(4) Thunder Bay Border Cats 2-0
2007 St. Cloud River Bats(3) Eau Claire Express 2-0
2008 Thunder Bay Border Cats(2) Madison Mallards 2-1
2009 Rochester Honkers(5)[3] La Crosse Loggers 2-1
2010 Eau Claire Express Rochester Honkers 2-1
2011 Battle Creek Bombers Mankato MoonDogs 2-0
2012 La Crosse Loggers Mankato MoonDogs 2-0
2013 Madison Mallards(2)[4] Duluth Huskies 2-0
2014 Lakeshore Chinooks[5] Mankato MoonDogs 2-0
2015 Kenosha Kingfish[6] St. Cloud Rox 2-0
2016 Wisconsin Rapids Rafters Eau Claire Express 2-0
2017 St. Cloud Rox(4) Battle Creek Bombers 2-1

Notable Northwoods League alumniEdit


The Northwoods League, in addition to being a developmental league for players and coaches, is also a developmental league for umpires. The concentrated game schedule, travel, and Minor League-like game conditions give NWL umpires a pre-professional experience. Since the League's inaugural season in 1994, 44 of its former umpires have furthered their careers in affiliated professional baseball.

The League recruits its umpires from the two umpire schools whose curricula have been approved by the Professional Baseball Umpire Corps. (PBUC): The Minor League Umpire training Academy and Harry Wendelstedt School for Umpires. The umpires ultimately chosen are usually among the top school graduates who were then selected to the pre-season, PBUC sponsored Umpire Evaluation Course.

The NWL contracts with nine three-man crews during the regular season, a six-man crew during the mid-season All-Star game, and six umpires for both the divisional playoffs and championship series.


  1. ^ "Donovans sign to play summer ball". The Pennington School. Retrieved 16 April 2016. 
  2. ^ "2017 Affiliated Attendance by League". Ballpark Digest. 2017-09-10. Retrieved 2018-03-15. 
  3. ^ "We are the champions". Rochester Post-Bulletin. 17 August 2009. 
  4. ^ "Mallards Capture First Northwoods League Championship Since 2004". WMTV NBC 15. 16 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "Lakeshore Chinooks named top summer collegiate team". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 21 August 2014. 
  6. ^ "Champion Kingfish reel in another honor". Kenosha News. 19 October 2015. 

External linksEdit