Our hometown nine, the Madison Mallards, proved they're as committed to winning as they are to hosting a great time when they fired manager C.J. Thieleke at the end of last season. His crime: missing out on the Northwoods League postseason for two consecutive years and three out of the last four.
As the highest-profile franchise in the Northwoods League, the Mallards are expected (by the team's front office if not the fun-loving fans) to be in the mix every season. These expectations are especially tough to meet when building a roster in the fall around guys who might opt for a minor-league contract in the spring. And others might miss much of the season's first half if their college team makes a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
With all that uncertainty, Mallards observers have reason to believe their team is worthy of its fancy new digs at Warner Park. Just a week into the 2011 season, Madison sits at 5-2 after playing six of its first seven games on the road. The Mallards have outscored their opponents 40-22 and are batting .302, second best in the league. Meanwhile, their opponents are hitting a meager .222.
The strength of the roster should only improve as players like Justin Parr, who hit over .300 for Illinois, join the squad in the coming days.