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Northwoods League approves expansion for 2019 season

Northwoods League chairman Dick Radatz hopes teams will be able to better retain players for the duration of the 2018 season. Curt Hogg / Forum News Service1 / 3
Willmar co-owners Marc Jerzak (left), Ryan Voz (center) and the Stingers hosted the Northwoods League meetings this week. Curt Hogg / Forum News Service2 / 3
Willmar co-owners Marc Jerzak (left), Ryan Voz (center) and the Stingers hosted the Northwoods League meetings this week. Curt Hogg / Forum News Service3 / 3

WILLMAR, Minn. - Northwoods League owners approved an expansion franchise in Hudson, Wis., that will begin play in the 2019 season, chairman Dick Radatz confirmed Wednesday.

Expanding to 22 teams was at the forefront of topics at the league's annual offseason meetings Oct. 11, which conclude on Thursday at the Willmar Conference Center.

The league, which will play the next season without any expansion teams after adding franchises in Bismarck, N.D., and Fond du Lac, Wis. for 2017, has shown interest in the Twin Cities metro market in past years. Hudson, a town of nearly 13,000 people located on the eastern shores of the St. Croix River, is approximately 30 miles away from downtown Minneapolis.

"We've been eyeballing the (Twin Cities) suburbs for years," Radatz said, "but not so much the (Hudson) area, but Blaine, Elk River, Maple Grove, places like that. We didn't see this one coming initially."

A corresponding expansion franchise will be announced in the near future to balance out the league's divisions.

"We'll expand by one more team to even things out, but we don't have anybody that's official yet," Radatz said. "We've got some ideas, but the dominoes have to fall. One will fall eventually."

Reports have previously linked Mitchell, S.D., to the league as one of its top targets.

The first-year franchises in Bismarck and Fond du Lac fared respectably in 2017, taking sixth and fourth place in their respective 10-team divisions. Fond du Lac missed out on the playoffs by virtue of the tiebreaker, which gave the final South Division postseason spot to the Lakeshore Chinooks.

The 2018 season will mark the 25th year of Northwoods League baseball, and league executives will look for as much growth and success in its upcoming banner campaign as it had in 2017.

A league record-tying 23 alumni made their Major League Baseball debuts this season, and, overall, 77 former players appeared in the majors at some point in the season.

"It helps everything, having that kind of success with alumni," Radatz said. "We can get more players, more fans, more numbers."

Curt Hogg

Curt Hogg is a sports reporter at the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minnesota. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016. 

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