6/16/2017 7:26:00 AM Snowshoe baseball returns to the Northwoods Season begins Monday
Evan Verploegh/Lakeland Times
Brandon Maize tumbles as he tries to catch a fly ball during a snowshoe baseball game between D&R Bombers and the Lake Tomahawk Snowhawks Monday, Aug. 8, 2016, at Snowshoe Park.
Evan Verploegh/Lakeland Times
Todd Niemuth eyes up a pitch during the fourth inning of a snowshoe baseball game between the Lake Tomahawk Snowhawks and Zimmy’s All-Stars Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, at Snowshoe Park in Lake Tomahawk.
The snowshoe baseball team out of Lake Tomahawk will begin their 2017 season on Monday as they face Happy Daze.
"We're always hopeful that this will be a good season for weather so we can get all our games in on Mondays," manager and player Jeff Smith said.
"A lot of people have been calling and so there's a lot of excitement and they can't wait to get the year going. We just hope that the weather pans out for us. Boy, some years it's been really tough and other years it's been great. But we've got a lot of water on the field now that's soaked in. It's going to take a little drying out. And it doesn't look like our forecast this week is looking out for us. But there will be a game. There always is."
A major difference for this year's season? A new field for the Snowhawks.
"We got 36,000 pounds of wood shavings that we had to hand load. That was fun. We get that, like, every two, three years. We usually get a new load and we call that our new field. And we spread that all out and that gets mixed in with the old shavings," Smith said. "It allows us to give it a nice look to it and that way if people fall, they're not hitting stones or rocks. Sometimes the stones start poking through when you drag the field a lot for the last two and a half years now. It's about had it."
With a new field in place, Smith said it shouldn't differ in play too much with the ball.
"I don't think it should differ too much, really. It'll be a little softer out there. The ball might not skip as fast. That's a couple things I know will happen right away just from playing on new fields," he said. "Once you turn this new stuff over, the ball doesn't skip as bad. You can pretty much gauge what it's going to do. So we're going to have to be faster on our shoes if we're going to stretch a single into a double. But we've already been practicing just a little bit."
The Snowhawks boast some newcomers, but their roster size remains similar to years past.
"We've got usually a roster of about 12 to 14, somewhere in that range. I think this year we've got 15 on our roster. There's going to be some part timers, and those guys are all new," Smith said. "So there's like three or four new guys. They won't be there every game, but they'll be there at some of them. Trying to introduce them to snowshoes little by little and get them up to speed. It's going to take them a little bit, but it's all in good fun anyway."
Smith said the majority of the team's players are from the area, either currently or originally.
"Most of them are from this area, if not directly around it like Hazelhurst, Minocqua. They don't all live here for their whole lives," he said. "Most of the guys joined when they were members of Lake Tomahawk, but now they've moved away or got family."
But the team has one odd man out in that department, Smith said.
"We've got one guy who's from Illinois that's brand new that we're going to try. He wants to try really bad," he said. "At the time we might have been short players, so we thought 'yeah, we'll try him.' So he'll be a part-timer for us and we'll see what happens."
On the schedule, the Snowhawks will face a team brought back from the past in the Town Pump, based out of Rhinelander.
"That's an old team that used to be in the snowshoe league many years ago. They're kind of like one of the founding teams of this league from back in the '60s," Smith said. "So we're pretty excited to have them back. We couldn't get them on the schedule last year but we made it happen this year."
Every year, Smith said, the sport brings the community together by staying in Lake Tomahawk.
"It provides them with an out for a Monday night. So that's a great thing that they can count on in the summer times, especially with the food that's served and the caliber of games that are played now," he said. "We've got some really good teams. But I think that's going to keep people coming to town. And I think it's good for the community as a whole."
Ben Gauger may be reached via email at email@example.com.