Starting in 2019, the summer-collegiate Northwoods League will field a team in Traverse City, MI’s Wuerfel Park, which has been sold to an investment group led by the West Michigan Whitecaps (Low A; Midwest League).
John and Leslye Wuerfel privately financed the construction of Wuerfel Park, which opened in 2006 for the Traverse City Beach Bums (independent; Frontier League). Wednesday’s announcement, however, signifies big changes for baseball in Traverse City, as the ballpark is under new ownership and will now be home to a Northwoods League club starting in 2019. New names for the team and the ballpark will be announced at a later date.
Upgrades to the ballpark and fan experience are expected to take place prior to next season. Joe Chamberlin, CEO of the Whitecaps will oversee the project. “We are incredibly excited to bring a new and exciting brand of baseball to Traverse City and the Northern Michigan region. We are confident that our track record of pairing baseball and other community events with fun, affordable family entertainment will translate well to this beautiful ballpark and this vibrant community,” Chamberlin said. The Whitecaps have built a reputation as one of Minor League Baseball’s most successful franchises in their 25 seasons in West Michigan, drawing more than 10 million fans in the process.
The new franchise will be a part of the Northwoods League which is currently comprised of 22 teams across the upper Midwest and Canada. The league attracts top talent from colleges across the country and boasts distinguished alumni such as Major League All-Stars Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, Curtis Granderson, Brandon Crawford and Jordan Zimmermann. 88 of the league’s alumni played in Major League Baseball this season and 161 former Northwoods League players were drafted by Major League Baseball teams last year. Michigan currently has two other teams in the league, the Battle Creek Bombers and the Kalamazoo Growlers.
Northwoods League President Gary Hoover, a Traverse City area resident, is confident that Traverse City will make a positive impact on the league out of the gate. “We could not be more excited to have Traverse City join the Northwoods League. This ballpark and this market have the potential to set the standard for top-tier collegiate summer baseball.”
In addition to new fun, food, baseball and events Chamberlin also announced they will re-brand the team and the ballpark. “We look forward to getting to know Traverse City and this region as we build our local staff, forge meaningful community partnerships and most immediately name this team.”
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