All photos courtesy of the Wausau marmots.
Baseball has been a Wausau tradition for decades. When did you buy the team and what prompted you to do so?
I had retired from investing and was looking for my next adventure. I was attracted to marmots because of Wausau. I felt I could have a positive impact on the community. I was also attracted to the Woodchucks because they give many young people their first career opportunities. I bought the team in 2012. All the coaches, players, referees, interns and summer staff are just starting their careers and Woodchucks offer them every opportunity to grow in their chosen profession.
Until this year, the team was called Wisconsin Woodchucks. Why was the team called Wisconsin and not Wausau, and what made you decide to change the name this year?
We were actually the Wausau Woodchucks when the team first started in 1994, before becoming the Wisconsin Woodchucks in 1998. The team was the Wisconsin Woodchucks from that point (1998) until last February when we underwent an update of the brand and changed our name to the Wausau marmots. We decided to go back to the Wausau Woodchucks because we really wanted to highlight the Wausau area we call home. We collaborated with Studio Simon, a sports identity professional, to incorporate elements from our area, such as the river and trees, into the logo. We felt it was time for a fresh new look to match all the renovations the stadium has undergone over the past 10 years.
Why do you think baseball creates such a strong sense of community? In other words, why do you believe so strongly in supporting a team in Wausau?
I love that baseball, especially Woodchucks baseball, brings everyone together in such a fun environment. You don’t even have to be a huge baseball fan to enjoy a game. Athletic Park and Woodchucks have also become something that Wausau and the surrounding area can be truly proud of. One of my favorite parts of my job is going around matches and talking to our fans. Groundhogs definitely contribute to “Quality of Life” in Wausau and central Wisconsin. We provide a safe family environment where friends and family can come together and enjoy food, drink, camaraderie and baseball. Additionally, many companies in Wausau and central Wisconsin use Woodchucks in their talent recruitment processes.
Tell us about your coaching staff and what makes them a good fit for the team.
Our coach is Corey Thompson, he is returning after a record 2021 season. We were very excited to be able to bring him back to Wausau. Kelton Caldwell is also back for a second season with the team and we have two new coaches, Nolan Atkins and Ryan Shawley. They are great at teaching baseball and helping players improve. They also interact with fans and are excellent team ambassadors in the community.
What is the player experience like when he arrives in Wausau? Do they all live with host families, and how are those chosen?
Our players live with host families while they are here for the summer. Interested families can apply on our site. Once the player arrives in Wausau he immediately starts training and playing with the team. The season is organized to show the player how he would be playing at the minor league or major league level. We strive to make sure our players enjoy Wausau and with the team. All host families go through a screening process. They are generally people who like baseball, but most of all enjoy having a young man living in their home for the summer. Some have small children and the player is treated like an older brother. Others are empty nesters who lack the noise and activity their offspring brought home. A common theme we hear from host families is that they all like to meet people with different and unique backgrounds.
Tell us about the team’s relationship with the Northwoods League. What makes the league unique in the way players are prepared for future success?
The Northwoods League comprises 22 teams ranging from Kokomo, Indiana, to Bismark, North Dakota. It is a valuable training ground for coaches, referees, players and front office staff. More than 280 NWL alumni have progressed to Major League baseball, including former Woodchuck and two-time World Series champion Ben Zobrist. The NWL plays a full 72-game schedule in approximately 75 days, with trips to help prepare players for what it would be like to play for a Minor League or Major League team.
You have invested heavily in Athletic Park, where the team plays. What improvements are you most proud of?
I am very proud of the community resource that Athletic Park and Woodchucks have become. Ryan Treu is proud when fans leave Athletic Park happy regardless of whether the team won or lost. We always do our best to create a great fan experience. Mostly I’m proud of how we’ve combined the historic aspects of Athletic Park with premium seating and modern amenities.
What do you hope people experience when they come to Athletic Park for a game with the ball?
I hope they have a fun night out with their friends and / or family, taking one of Wausau’s fantastic services. I hope they have a chance to talk, laugh and have fun. I hope they are amazed when they see our great facility and I hope they want to come back again.
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