|Divisions||Great Lakes Division, Great Plains Division|
|No. of teams||22|
|Countries||United States, Canada|
|Traverse City Pit Spitters (2021)|
|Most titles||Rochester Honkers (5)|
|Level on pyramid||Summer Collegiate|
The Northwoods League is a collegiate summer baseball league. All players in the league must have NCAA eligibility remaining in order to participate. The league is amateur, and players are not paid, so as to maintain their college eligibility. Graduated senior pitchers are also eligible to play in the Northwoods League. Each team may have four of these players at a time.
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 four sub-divisions playing against each other to determine a sub-divisional champion in a best-of-three series. The sub-divisional champions then meet in a winner-take-all game to determine a divisional champion. The divisional champions then meet in a winner-take-all game for the league championship.
In 2020, some teams cancelled their season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For those teams that did play, instead of playing within their usual divisions, they played in hub regions, with some creating "temporary teams".
Established in 1994, the Northwoods League was the first for-profit summer collegiate baseball league. It has more teams and plays more games than any other summer collegiate baseball league. The Northwoods League drew over 1.1 Million fans for the fourth consecutive year in 2017. The purpose of the league is to develop players while college baseball teams are not allowed to work out. 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 three teams in Michigan and one team each in Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota, Indiana and Ontario.
Over 200 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 and 2018 Major League Baseball All-Star Games.
In small cities it may be hard to find the financial stability in a newly founded baseball league. The Northwoods League (NWL) realized it needed to gain significant revenue from sponsors in order to succeed. According to league Chairman and co-founder Dick Radatz, Jr, two-thirds of the revenue comes from sponsors and the remainder from ticket sales, concessions, and team merchandise. Radatz also noted the importance of having the sponsor revenue before the beginning of the season.
Map of teams
Not included are the temporary teams that were created and made for 2020 as teams had to cancel their season or only play locally/regionally.
|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)||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)||Duluth Huskies||2-0|
|2014||Lakeshore Chinooks||Mankato MoonDogs||2-0|
|2015||Kenosha Kingfish||St. Cloud Rox||2-0|
|2016||Wisconsin Rapids Rafters||Eau Claire Express||2-0|
|2017||St. Cloud Rox (4)||Battle Creek Bombers||2-1|
|2018||Fond du Lac Dock Spiders||Duluth Huskies||2-1|
|2019||Traverse City Pit Spitters||Eau Claire Express||3-2|
|2020||No official league champion as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic|
|2021||Traverse City Pit Spitters (2)||St. Cloud Rox||9-3|
From 1994-2018, the league championship series was a best-of-3 between the two division champions. When the league expanded in 2019, the championship became a one-game playoff.
Notable Northwoods League alumni
- Jeremy Accardo, Alexandria Beetles, 2001
- Scott Alexander, La Crosse Loggers, 2008
- Pete Alonso, Madison Mallards, 2014
- Cody Asche, Duluth Huskies, 2009-2010
- Clint Barmes, Kenosha Kroakers, 1998, Waterloo Bucks, 1999
- Joe Bisenius, Duluth Huskies, 2003
- T.J. Bohn, Brainerd Mighty Gulls, 2001
- Rob Brantly, La Crosse Loggers, 2009
- Lance Broadway, Wisconsin Woodchucks, 2004
- Trevor Brown, La Crosse Loggers, 2011
- Mike Burns, Brainerd Mighty Gulls, 1998–1999
- Kole Calhoun, Eau Claire Express, 2007-2009
- Matt Cepicky, Waterloo Bucks, 1997
- Matt Chapman, La Crosse Loggers, 2012
- Jermaine Clark, Kenosha Kroakers, 1995
- Willie Collazo, Waterloo Bucks, 1999
- Allen Craig, Alexandria Beetles, 2003, 2005
- Paul DeJong, Wisconsin Woodchucks, 2014
- Chris Demaria, St. Cloud River Bats, 2000–2001
- Thomas Diamond, St. Cloud River Bats, 2002–2003
- Andy Dominique, Kenosha Kroakers, 1995
- Jeff Duncan, Waterloo Bucks, 1998
- Lucas Duda, Alexandria Beetles, 2006
- Andre Ethier, Rochester Honkers, 2002
- Dave Gassner, Wausau Woodchucks, 1998
- Jay Gibbons, Manitowoc Skunks, 1996–1997
- Tom Gorzelanny, St. Cloud River Bats, 2001
- Curtis Granderson, Mankato Mashers, 2001
- Mitch Haniger, Green Bay Bullfrogs, 2009
- Jack Hannahan, Mankato Mashers, 1999
- Daniel Ray Herrera, La Crosse Loggers, 2005
- Tyler Hoechlin, Battle Creek Bombers, 2007
- Justin Huisman, St. Cloud River Bats, 1998
- Brett Jackson, La Crosse Loggers, 2007
- Casey Janssen, Wisconsin Woodchucks, 2001
- Jimmy Journell, Waterloo Bucks, 1997, 1999
- Bobby Kielty, Kenosha Kroakers, 1996
- Andrew Knapp, La Crosse Loggers, 2011
- Mark Lowe, Wisconsin Woodchucks, 2002–2003
- Jay Marshall, Rochester Honkers, 2002
- Doug Mathis, Duluth Huskies, 2003
- Mark Melancon, Duluth Huskies, 2004
- Paul McAnulty, Mankato Mashers, 2001
- Carlos Muñiz, Alexandria Beetles, 2002
- Pat Neshek, Wisconsin Woodchucks, 2000
- Josh Newman, Alexandria Beetles, 2001
- Wes Obermueller, Wausau Woodchucks, 1995, Waterloo Bucks, 1996–1997
- Jordan Pacheco, La Crosse Loggers, 2005
- Val Pascucci, Rochester Honkers, 1998
- Juan Pierre, Manitowoc Skunks, 1996
- Robb Quinlan, Dubuque Mud Puppies, 1996, St. Cloud River Bats, 1998
- Erasmo Ramirez, Kenosha Kroakers, 1995
- Mike Rouse, Brainerd Mighty Gulls, 1999
- Chris Sale, La Crosse Loggers, 2008
- Max Scherzer, La Crosse Loggers, 2004
- Shawn Sedlacek, Dubuque Mud Puppies, 1996
- George Sherrill, Kenosha Kroakers, 1997
- Drew Smyly, Duluth Huskies, 2009
- Ryan Spilborghs, Madison Mallards, 2001
- Eric Thames, La Crosse Loggers, 2007
- Curtis Thigpen, Waterloo Bucks, 2002
- Jeff Weaver, Dubuque Mud Puppies, 1995
- Josh Willingham, Austin Southern Minny Stars, 1998–1999
- Danny Worth, Alexandria Beetles, 2006
- Ben Zobrist, Wisconsin Woodchucks, 2003
- Jordan Zimmermann, Eau Claire Express 2006
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 eleven 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.
- "Donovans sign to play summer ball". The Pennington School. Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
- Platt, Adam (June 22, 2018). "How the Northwoods League quietly became the dominant baseball league in the Upper Midwest". MinnPost. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
- "2021 Northwoods League Schedule Great Plains Division" (PDF). Northwoods League. Retrieved March 20, 2021.
- "2021 Northwoods League Schedule Great Lakes Division" (PDF). Northwoods League. Retrieved March 20, 2021.
- Spedden, Zach (October 12, 2019). "St. Croix River Hounds Set for 2021 Launch". Ballpark Digest. August Publications. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
- Grossfield, Edie (August 17, 2009). "We are the champions". Post-Bulletin. Rochester, Minnesota.
- "Mallards Capture First Northwoods League Championship Since 2004". WMTV NBC 15. August 16, 2013.[dead link]
- Hunt, Michael (August 21, 2014). "Lakeshore Chinooks named top summer collegiate team". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- "Champion Kingfish reel in another honor". Kenosha News. October 19, 2015. Archived from the original on March 25, 2016.