All photos courtesy of Wausau Woodchucks.
Baseball has been a Wausau tradition for decades. When did you buy the band, and what prompted you to do so?
I retired from the investment business and was looking for my next adventure. Woodchucks attracted me because of Wausau. I felt that I could have a positive impact on the community. I was also attracted to Woodchucks because it gives many young people their first career opportunities. I bought the band in 2012. All of the coaches, players, referees, fellows and summer staff have just started their careers, and Woodchucks gives them every opportunity to grow in their chosen profession.
Until this year, the team was called the Wisconsin Woodchucks. Why did the band move to Wisconsin and not Wausau – and what prompted you to change your name this year?
In fact, we were the Wausau Woodchucks when the group started in 1994, before it became the Wisconsin Woodchucks in 1998. The group was in the Wisconsin Woodchucks from that time (1998) until last February when we updated the brand and changed our name. Wausau marmots. We decided to return to Wausau Woodchucks because we wanted to highlight the Wausau area that we really call home. With Studio Simon, a sports identity professional, to embed elements around us in the logo, such as the river and trees. We thought it was time for a new and fresh look to match all the renovations the stadium has undergone in the last 10 years.
Why do you think baseball creates a strong sense of community? In other words, why do you believe so strongly in the support of a Wausaun group?
I love baseball, especially Woodchucks baseball, in a fun environment that brings them all together. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy a game. Athletic Park and Woodchucks have also become something that Wausau and the surrounding area can be proud of. One of my favorite parts of my job is playing games and talking to our fans. Woodchucks contributes to the “Quality of Life” in Wausau and central Wisconsin. We provide a safe family environment where you can gather friends and family and enjoy food, drink, companionship and baseball. In addition, many businesses in Wausau and Central Wisconsin use Woodchucks in their talent recruitment processes.
Tell us about your coaching team and what they are suitable for the team.
Our head coach is Corey Thompson, who will return after a record 2021 season. We were very excited to be able to return to Wausa. Kelton Caldwell is also back for a second season with the team and we have two new coaches, Nolan Atkins and Ryan Shawley. They are great at teaching baseball and helping players improve. They also interact with the fans and are great ambassadors for the team in the community.
What is the experience of the players when they arrive in Wausa? They all live with foster families, and how are they selected?
Our players live with foster families while they are here during the summer. Interested families can apply on our website. When the player arrives in Wausa, they immediately start training and playing with the team. The season is set up to show the player what it would be like to play at the minor or major league level. We strive to make our players have a great time with Wausaun and the team. All foster families go through an examination process. They are generally people who like baseball, but more importantly they enjoy living with a young person in their home during the summer. Some have small children and the player is treated like an older brother. Others are empty nests, throwing away the noise and activity that their children bring home. A common theme we hear from foster families is that everyone enjoys getting to know people from diverse and unique backgrounds.
Tell us about the team’s relationship with the Northwoods League. What makes the league the only way to prepare players for future success?
The Northwoods League is made up of 22 teams from Kokomo, from Indiana Bismark to North Dakota. It is a valuable training ground for coaches, referees, players and frontline staff. More than 280 NWL alumni have been promoted to Major League Baseball by former Woodchuck and two-time World Series champions, including Ben Zobrist. The NWL plays a full 72-game calendar over 75 days, with a trip that helps players prepare for what it would be like to play in a minor league or major league team.
You’ve invested a lot in Athletic Park, where the team plays. Which improvement are you most proud of?
I am very proud of the community property that Athletic Park and Woodchucks have turned into. Ryan Treu is proud to say that the fans are happy to leave Athletic Park, despite the fact that the team has won or lost. We’re always doing what we can to create a great fan experience. I am especially proud that we have combined the historic aspects of Athletic Park with premium seating and modern amenities.
What do you expect when people come to Athletic Park for a ball game?
I hope you will have a great night out with friends and / or family, taking one of the great amenities of Wausau. I hope you can talk, laugh and enjoy. I hope you are impressed with our great facilities and look forward to seeing you again.
Connect to Wausau Woodchucks