Big Top Baseball has announced personnel news for two of its summer-collegiate Northwoods League teams, headlined by the promotion of John Fanta to Vice President, Green Bay Bullfrogs and Wisconsin Rapids Rafters. Fanta has spent the past nine seasons with the Rafters, serving the last five as the team’s General Manager.
In a corresponding move, Big Top has named Andy Francis as the new General Manager of the Rafters. Francis is in the midst of serving his third season with the Bullfrogs and second as Assistant General Manager. He began his Northwoods League career in Wisconsin Rapids in 2015 under Fanta and the two will work together to manage the club in the future.
“Our business is founded upon the idea of providing young sports professionals a stage to prove what they are capable of,” said Big Top Baseball President Vern Stenman. “We are proud of what both John and Andy have accomplished within our organization and we look forward to seeing what each of them achieves next. This move allows for John to keep his tie to Wisconsin Rapids, which is very important to him, while creating new professional challenges for both John and Andy moving forward.”
In his new role, Fanta will oversee the day to day operation of both franchises. He will be relocating to Green Bay following the season to work directly with Green Bay Bullfrogs General Manager Sieeria Vieaux on the launch of a new multi-purpose stadium being built in the Village of Ashwaubenon for the 2019 season.
“I am very excited and thankful for this new opportunity that Big Top Baseball has presented,” said Fanta. “The Wisconsin Rapids community embraced me with open arms nine years ago and has been a great place to live and grow professionally. I look forward to continuing to build on the foundation that we have set in Wisconsin Rapids and also joining in on the excitement surrounding the new stadium that is coming to the Village of Ashwaubenon.”
Fanta joined the Rafters as Assistant GM prior to the team’s inaugural season in 2010, after spending two seasons as an intern for the La Crosse Loggers. He was promoted to General Manager of the Rafters following the 2013 season. During his tenure as GM, Fanta has guided numerous endeavors to improve Witter Field including a complete re-build of the infield playing surface, the addition of an HD video board, the League’s first Interactive Accessible Seating Area, as well as an interactive water-powered bar fan experience, the Point Craft River, that delivers beverages via raft. He has also overseen the largest crowd in team history, two Northwoods League All-Star Games in 2011 and 2015, the team’s first Summer Collegiate World Series Championship in 2016, and his Rafters set the Northwoods League record with 52 regular season wins last season. Fanta was honored as 2014 Big Top Baseball Executive of the Year and the 2016 Northwoods League Executive of the Year during his tenure as GM. He is a 2009 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and is a native of Viroqua, Wisconsin.
Francis is in his fourth season in the Northwoods League. He was hired by Fanta for the 2015 season to oversee concessions and operations for the Rafters. In the fall of 2015, he joined the Bullfrogs as an Inside Ticket Sales Representative. Following the 2016 season Francis was promoted to Assistant General Manager, a position in which he was currently serving. Francis will handle his obligations in Green Bay for the remainder of the 2018 season before relocating to Wisconsin Rapids. Aside from previously working for the Rafters he is no stranger to Central Wisconsin, having earned his degree from nearby University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where he also worked as a supervisor with the intramural program during college. Francis is a native of Wrightstown, Wisconsin.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to once again be a part of this wonderful community,” said Francis. “Wisconsin Rapids has always been like a second home. The Rafters are where I learned many of the skills that laid the groundwork for this juncture. I look forward to building upon existing relationships but also creating many new ones. John has done a lot of great things within the community and I hope to do the same. I’m grateful for this opportunity and I can’t wait to get started.”