The other boys of summer: Getting to know the Lakeshore Chinooks
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For baseball fans who have already given up on the Brewers season—or for those who have grown weary of leaving the fish-fry-stingy confines of Milwaukee’s northern suburbs to catch a game—a new option is available this year. A May 30 meeting with the Green Bay Bullfrogs marks the inaugural appearance of the Lakeshore Chinooks, a Northwoods League expansion team based in Mequon. Though the Northwoods League is a long way from the big show, it’s not exactly bar league softball, either. Teams are made up of unpaid NCAA-eligible players who live with host families, with the benefit of, as the team’s website claims, “… providing players the opportunity to use wooden bats, play with minor league specification baseballs, experience overnight road trips, and play nightly in front of fans in a stadium.”
A league of
The Northwoods League is not unlike that Freddie Prinze Jr. movie, Summer Catch, except with (thankfully) less Matthew Lillard. But just because the indentured servants on the rosters aren’t paid (while “professional baseball player” Vinnie Chulk somehow is), it doesn’t mean the league is devoid of talent. Such big-league notables as Ian Kinsler, Curtis Granderson, Andre Ethier, Ben Zobrist, Juan Pierre, Wisconsin native Jordan Zimmermann, and former Brewers whipping boy Wes Obermueller have spent time in the 16-team league, which has teams in Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, Thunder Bay (Ontario), and—now, with the inception of the Chinooks—seven in Wisconsin.
However, that star appeal doesn’t translate to the Chinooks’ (which is some type of fish, apparently) inaugural roster. Those seeking celebrity sightings will have to settle for the organization’s diverse ownership group. If bigwigs from local companies like Kapco Inc., Dutchland Plastics, Hammes Company, Johnson Level & Tool, and MPI Corporate Holdings don’t exactly get your rocks off, maybe rubbing elbows with other fellow owners will. The chance to see Bob Uecker, Bucks GM John Hammond, and lemonade tycoon Robin Yount in a more intimate stadium setting than Miller Park—or BMO Harris Formerly Known As M&I Bank, But Essentially The Same Company Bradley Center—will be enough to get you out to the stadium.
When the Chinooks take the field for their first home game June 4, they’ll be in a spanking-new stadium, Kapco Park. Largely funded by Kapco president/Chinooks part-owner Jim Kacmarcik, the bright and well-equipped edifice is on the Concordia University campus, and seems a stark contrast to the rest of the school’s outdated juvenile detention center motif. In addition to the new digs, the newly named Chinooks mascot will play host and entertain fans between innings. Of the more than 800 fan entries submitted, the surname “Gill” was chosen as the fish’s fitting name. Which makes sense, since “Lung” was so close to being the name of the Brewers mascot in 1970.
(Also, if you need your amateur baseball fix but can’t spare the $7 to $11 to attend in person, games will also be webcast on the Chinooks site—though we’d recommend you consider doing literally anything else instead, because that mental picture saddens us.)
As meaningful as a three-month-long campaign in which college kids play teams with names like Mankato MoonDogs, Wisconsin Rapids Rafters, and Thunder Bay Border Cats is, the most appealing aspect of Chinooks game attendance is the abundance of ballpark promotions. Almost every one of Lakeshore’s 34 home games is accompanied by a giveaway, participatory gimmick, special appearance, or musical performance. The promos range from dangerous offerings like a Chinooks mini bat (6/5) and pizza cutter (8/2); varied visitors such as WWF wrestler Sergeant Slaughter (7/5) and Packers great/sports talk radio liability LeRoy Butler (6/8); weird trinkets like Leinenkugel’s Robin Yount fishing lure (6/14) and a bobblehead of Gill (7/29). Star Wars Day (7/14), Batman: A Dark Knight Night (7/19), and a host of Friday fish-frys are also scheduled. And, obviously, Pat McCurdy will be allowed to play periodic pregame shows for some reason. Fucking Pat McCurdy.