Some of the Mallards' strongest players from last season have returned.
With spring semesters ending at universities across the country, a mostly new crop of Madison Mallards have filtered into town to begin their summer internships -- defending the team's 2013 championship from the rest of the Northwoods League at the Duck Pond in Warner Park.
Some signees have yet to arrive, according to assistant general manager Tyler Isham, either because they're still finishing classwork or playing in the NCAA baseball tournament. For example, new Mallard Tyler Buffett will continue to pitch for Oklahoma State until the team is eliminated from the NCAAs. The Cowboys open tournament play this weekend in Stillwater.
Although high turnover is inevitable in the Northwoods League given its student rosters, the Mallards do have a few players back from last year's team. "Alex Bacon is an outfielder from [the University of] North Florida who will be returning," says Isham. "He was an integral part of our championship run. We also have Ben Neumann and Charlie Naso coming back." (Neumann and Naso's schools are Northern Illinois and Illinois, respectively.) "They were both rock solid in the bullpen last year, and we expect that again," Isham says.
More important-ly, Donnie Scott is back as manager of the Mallards. The former major league catcher has coached two seasons in the Northwoods League and led his team to championships both times. (The first was with Battle Creek in 2011.) "Donnie gives us a big advantage on the field...his experience is second to none," Isham says. "Donnie's approach to each player and attention to detail set him apart and make him the best manager in our league."
If you haven't been out to the Duck Pond already this week, you can catch the Mallards there Thursday and Friday night against the La Crosse Loggers. The team will be back in Warner Park June 4 and 5 to play Kenosha; like the Mallards, the Kingfish are managed by a former big-league catcher, Duffy Dyer. Single-game ticket prices begin at $8 and $10.