Fans make the fun at the Duck Pond.
After a disappointing first half, in which the Madison Mallards finished third in the Northwoods League South division, the team has shown early signs during the second half of regaining the form that carried it to last year's league championship.
The Mallards improved to 5-2 in the second half with a 7-4 win in Kalamazoo Monday night. Two recent additions to the team, right fielder Connor Marabell from Jacksonville University and shortstop Trace Tam Sing of Washington State, have been instrumental to the quick start. The Mallards are also hoping for help from newcomers Matt Thaiss and Tyler Allen from the University of Virginia, whose team advanced to the College World Series finals late last month.
The Mallards' college roster turns over constantly, but the franchise keeps humming along. Owner Steve Schmitt and the rest of the management team don't always get the credit they're due; before the Mallards, Madison seemed an often indifferent baseball town. Now in their 14th year, the Mallards regularly draw 6,000 fans or more to the Duck Pond at Warner Park. Season after season they enjoy the best attendance in the Northwoods League, and it's not even close for second place. (In fairness, Madison is the biggest market in the league.)
The team's latest home game, a 7-1 loss to Battle Creek last Saturday afternoon, drew more than 6,700. The Bombers broke through for a couple of runs in the fourth inning against Mallards starting pitcher Sterling Sharp (yes, that's his name) and never trailed again.
Again, though, the real story was the crowd. Warner Park was packed, as it often is. Most notably, the stands were full of children; baseball lovers sometimes fear for the future of their sport because of an aging fan demographic, but it wasn't in evidence at the Duck Pond Saturday.