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Our View: Show community pride in Woodchucks this year

May 28, 2013
 
The Woodchucks' season opens Wednesday at Athletic Park in Wausau.
The Woodchucks' season opens Wednesday at Athletic Park in Wausau. / Daily Herald Media file photo
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Wisconsin Woodchucks' Jordan Luvisi pitches against the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters during a 2011 game at Athletic Park. / Daily Herald Media file photo

Tweet me out to the ballgame

Headed to a Woodchucks game? Post your photos, observations and play-by-play to Twitter using the hashtag #dhchucks to connect with other fans and show your pride in and support for the team. Daily Herald Media and its Twitter site @wausauherald will help to promote fan involvement all year.

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Play ball!

The Wisconsin Woodchucks’ opener is scheduled to kick off Wednesday, with the first pitch thrown out at 6:35 p.m. at Wausau’s Athletic Park. For many Wausau-area residents, this is the real beginning of summer. There will be a steady procession of families, companies and fans who make their way to the stands this year to take in a ballgame and, maybe, watch some future big-leaguers play.

In April, new Woodchucks owner Mark Macdonald announced plans to spend $2.7 million on renovations to the city-owned ball diamond, including remade grandstands and luxury suites. Macdonald also said he will donate two properties next to the stadium along with $20,000 in cash to the city to build a neighborhood park there. These improvements won’t happen this summer, but the fact that they’re on the docket is a sign of Macdonald’s long-term commitment to the club — and to the community. That helps to build loyalty for the team, and it will be fun this summer to go to the game with an eye on how the improvements and the new park might look in coming years.

As for the team itself, the Woodchucks start the season with a new manager, 24-year-old Jameel Ziadeh, a former college player who clearly loves the game and seems to be a natural leader. He’s put in time as an assistant coach in rural southern Indiana and at Iowa Western Community College. It will be interesting to see what he does with the ’Chucks, and to get to know this season’s standout players.

Like any trip to a baseball game at any level, the experience is not just about the baseball; it’s also about the ambiance, the crack of the bat and, yes, the concessions. Part of the reason the Woodchucks are beloved in thrifty Wausau is because the games are a great value for local families, with affordable tickets and hot dogs.

And Athletic Park itself is a genuine piece of history. It’s been the site of professional and semipro baseball for decades. The park’s original wooden grandstand and the stone wall along the street were built in 1936 by the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps.

This is all a way of saying the Woodchucks are one of the community assets we’re proud of, and we’re ready for another fun season.

And congrats, Pointers

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s extraordinary run in the postseason came to an end Monday as the team fell to Southern Maine in an 8-1 loss in an elimination game. The Pointers had a great season and an even more remarkable streak in the NCAA Division III tournament, with dramatic come-from-behind victories in two straight tournament games.

The team also set a school record for wins in its 41-11 season, and it was exciting to see the purple and gold uniforms head to the College World Series, only the fifth time in the club’s history that it had done so. We all had high hopes for a national championship, of course — but baseball is a capricious sport, and some days, well, some days you don’t have your best stuff. The Pointers had one of those days on Monday.

But it was a great run, and a season to remember.

— Greater Wausau is coverage that celebrates the good things about life in the greater Wausau area and addresses community challenges. If you have a story idea, email Editor MarkTreinen at mtreinen@wdhprint.com or call 715-845-0655.

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