Citizen Wausau

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Start of Summer

by on May 28th, 2009

For many people, this past weekend marked the unofficial “Start of Summer.”  But for me, the unofficial “Start of Summer” will be this Friday.  Why that day?  Because that is the Wisconsin Woodchuck’s first home game of the season.

Although many people complain that there is really nothing to do in a small “burb” like Wausau, I disagree.  I believe that for its size, the greater Wausau metro area can give much larger cities a run for their money with our offerings.  One of those things is the fact that we are home to a minor league baseball team.  (Note:  Maybe I am using the term “minor league” inappropriately as the ‘Chucks are not associated with any major league team, if so, I apologize for the confusion.)

For me, this is a big deal.  I love the sport of baseball, and I think I always have.  People may think that I am not a fan of the sport because I probably can’t name more than a dozen or so big league players, however with all of the strikes and controversy that comes with big league ball, I don’t think that many of those players play for the love of the game any more, and I know many will disagree, but I don’t consider the big leagues falling into that category of the “sport of baseball.”

Instead, I love watching people play who are playing for the love of the game.  I love watching high school games and little league.  Here, the kids are still learning and if not too many parents are there, it is one of the best places to see true sportsmanship in action.  However, one guy in his 40’s hanging out all the time at a little league diamond when he is not affiliated with any of the kids there can gain unwarranted attention.

However, the ‘Chucks are the real deal.  They are a wood bat league.  These are college players and some of them go on to the pros.  Fans of the sport will realize just how special some of these kids are.  Last season, Bobby Pritchett was one of their batting leaders, and his performance in the outfield was always something special.  However, Bobby was also a very good pitcher.  A great all-around player.  (He will be back this season).

Two seasons ago was a real treat.  The ‘Chucks had a pitcher by the name of Pat Venditte.  Batters who can effectively hit from either side of the plate are becoming more common.  However, Venditte was a switch pitcher, who could pitch both right handed AND left handed, and was very good with both arms.  Plus, Venditte showed a great deal of maturity.  After his junior year of college, he was drafted by the New York Yankees, to whom he said “thanks but no thanks,” he plans to finish school.  (The following year, he was drafted by the Yankees again and currently plays for their minor league team in New York.)

But maybe baseball is not your thing.  That’s fine.  Woodchuck games are just good family entertainment.  Between the innings, many local corporate sponsors have come together with the ‘Chucks to make sure no one gets bored between innings.  As a matter of fact, there have been times where the between inning entertainment is better than the game itself.

Examples of this fun have included a dizzy bat race, sumo wrestling in the big blow-up costumes, tug of wars by attaching two people to a bungee cord and having them run different directions, seeing who can eat a six-pack of Buffalo Wild Wings with their hottest sauce the fastest, who can put on a t-shirt that has been frozen the fastest, dressing up kids as catsup and mustard and racing them around the bases (please, no betting), and too many more items to list.  However, we can’t forget the seventh inning staple where kids can join the team’s mascot, Woody Woodchuck, out on the field to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

There are also many games where there are giveaways.  Favorites are bobble-heads, t-shirts, and my personal favorite:  “Free Money Nite”.

Not only is this great family entertainment, it is affordable entertainment.  Tickets are only $5 or $6 per game.  Plus, there are a number of ways to get free tickets.  Even the burgers, brats, pops, beers and souvenirs are affordable.  A family of four can have a great time and the full ‘Chucks experience for less than the cost of one ticket to a major league game.  And after the game, you can go out on the field to meet and talk to the players.  How cool is that?

Finally, there is Athletic Park, the home to the ‘Chucks.  This historic stadium has been called the “Wrigley Field of the North;” however, its age requires many updates because of new codes, and there is discussion at City Hall as to whether the money should be spent. There is a chance this will be the last year the ‘Chucks call Athletic Park home.

So, yes there are things to do here in Wausau.  The ‘Chucks are back, their home opener is Friday evening.  For more information, their website is  HYPERLINK “”


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