Northwoods League opening day, Rafters play at home - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Northwoods League opening day, Rafters play at home

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WISCONSIN RAPIDS (WAOW) -

It's opening day for the Northwoods baseball league. The Wisconsin Woodchucks are in Eau Claire, while the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters are entering their third season. 

Fans at the park were ready for some baseball. The smell of hot dogs in the air and the sound of the crack of the bat can only mean one thing--it's opening day at Witter Field. 

"Last minute details--making sure will call is ready to go, cleaning up the stadium, preparing on-field promotions and getting excited," Rafters General Manager Liz Kern said. 

The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters are entering their third season, and each year fans are coming through the gates by the tens of thousands. 

"General estimates is that June 5 we will have our 100,000 fan through the gate," Kern said. 

During their first season in 2010, the Rafters welcomes 46,000 fans to catch some baseball. Last year, that number was pushed to 48,000. Team leaders say they have high hopes for this year. 

"The first year we had great crowds out here. I think more people are becoming aware of the Rafters, this being their third season, I think it can only be better," Rafters Assistant General Manager John Fanta said. 

Team leaders say the Rafters also help the local economy. 

"There's a lot of people driving from La Crosse, Madison, Green Bay, Wausau--bringing a lot of people from in the state and out to see great baseball during the summer," Fanta said. 

Rafters staff say they've amped up their promotions this year--aimed at drawing more fans through these gates. 

"It really enhances the community of Wisconsin Rapids, it gives families something to do, something fun, something affordable," Kern said. 

Team leaders say it's the dedication of Rafters fans that keeps them in business. 

"Our fans are great. They come early, they eat and they are not missing a pitch," Kern said. 

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