By Rich Palzewic
ASHWAUBENON – The Green Bay Booyah are back at Capital Credit Union Park in Ashwaubenon for another season of baseball.
After a successful inaugural campaign in 2019, which saw Green Bay go 18-18 in the second half, field manager Tom Carty returns for his second season with the Booyah, who open play Wednesday, July 1, by hosting Wisconsin Rapids in a 6:35 p.m. game.
“It’s good to be back, and I’m excited,” said Carty, who returned to Green Bay June 21. “It’s been a crazy start due to (the) COVID-19 (pandemic), but I think it will be a great year. I had a great first year in Green Bay, and I enjoyed the first season in the new stadium.”
Carty, who is the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York, said the Northwoods League (NWL) was patient in not canceling the entire season this spring.
“It’s a credit to the league,” he said. “Some leagues might have made the right decision for them, but I’m glad the NWL kept an open mind to the possibility of playing. They didn’t set any deadlines, which was important. Some leagues in Florida and the Carolinas have already started safely playing again.”
Carty said all members of the team got tested for COVID upon arrival before being sent to their host families.
“The organization has done a great job in trying to make us safe,” he said. “Most of the guys got here by June 24, so we can get in a few practices before our first game.”
Originally set to begin in late May, the Booyah could play 50 games between July 1 and August 20, when the season ends.
“There are enough days to do it,” Carty said. “Last year we played 72 games, so this year might see a doubleheader or two. We could get about two-thirds of a normal season in.”
He said the NWL is different than coaching Division I college baseball.
“With guys coming from college baseball to the NWL, it’s like going to professional baseball for the first time – now you do it every day,” said Carty. “It’s harder to do baseball every day in college because guys have classes, too. If you’re fortunate enough to be on an NWL roster in the summer, you’re testing your ability to be consistent like in pro baseball. Can you show up every day and be the same player? It’s a challenge. It separates players when they try to chase their dreams.”
Green Bay begins the season by playing 14 games in as many days, and Carty said he is “very happy” with this year’s roster.
“I was hired later in the process last season, so I didn’t have as much impact on trying to help the organization with the roster,” he said. “I went into last year a bit blind as a manager. Coming back for a second year, I instantly have a connection with the players who are back and enjoyed their experience. There are more than 10 players – which I think is a big number – returning to Green Bay. They are returning because they want to. I’ve had a full year to work with the organization to build a championship-level team.”
Carty was hired back for his second season last August immediately after the season ended.
With a good mix of returning players, a newcomer, Bo Majkowski, is a Clemson University outfielder and the son of Packers Hall of Fame quarterback Don Majkowski, who played in Green Bay from 1987-92.
“Bo is a good player who plays in one of the best college baseball conferences (Atlantic Coast Conference) in the country, so we are excited to get him in here,” said Carty. “Bo is proud of his father’s accomplishments in Green Bay, but he’s looking forward to making a name for himself in the NWL.”
Carty said he is aware the Booyah will be a hot commodity this season for sports-starved residents in northeast Wisconsin.
“Everybody throughout the country had to shut down to some capacity,” he said. “Whether the stadium is open 25 percent or 50 percent, everyone is welcoming that. It’s great to be a part of a venue that will have more than 100 people there. At least 1,000 people in the community get to watch these guys play baseball.”
Carty said his team won’t be short on enthusiasm, but it will take some time to get back to a clean game.
“I expect the first week or two to be a bit sloppy from an execution standpoint,” he said. “It’s been a solid three months since the guys have played baseball. They’ve been training and staying sharp, but there’s no way to replicate game speed until July 1.”
He said it will be hard to keep the enthusiasm of the team down, despite the NWL discouraging fist bumps and high-fives.
“The guys are going to be together,” he said. “They’ll be getting on a bus together, but we have to be careful and not reckless. Maybe you’ll see a pat on the backside instead of big celebrations, but we’re human – that’s a big part of us. We are trying to move forward despite the risk.”