Amid COVID-19 pandemic, Booyah season successful
By Rich Palzewic
ASHWAUBENON – When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country in mid-March, John Fanta, vice president of the Green Bay Booyah, said he didn’t know what to expect for the upcoming Northwoods League (NWL) season in a few months.
“There were lots of uncertainties at that time,” he said. “But give credit to the league – they didn’t panic and cancel the season. All we wanted was an opportunity, and we made the best of it. There were lots of people who had a hand in our season being completed – it was gratifying. I enjoyed watching people kick back and drink a beverage while enjoying some live entertainment.”
The Booyah, who play their games at Capital Credit Union Park in Ashwaubenon, made their first playoff appearance since 2015 and finished the season 18-28.
After the season was delayed about a month, Green Bay opened July 1 at home with a 10-5 loss to Wisconsin Rapids and ended its campaign Aug. 21 with a 9-4 postseason loss in Fond du Lac.
“From that standpoint, it was a successful year,” Fanta said. “Making the playoffs was a goal of ours. We would have liked to win a few more games, but under the circumstances, it was a good year on the field. It was important to play baseball again and bring some normalcy back.”
The Booyah ranked second of 22 NWL teams in per-game attendance by hosting more than 17,000 fans throughout the season.
In 24 home contests this summer, an average of 720 fans came to the ballpark each game.
“We safely brought that many people into the stadium each night,” said Fanta. “Also, we had lots of other events there, too. I heard nothing but positive comments from the fans that came out.”
Most importantly, not a single positive case of COVID-19 was linked to any event at the venue this summer.
“We’re proud of that,” Fanta said. “We didn’t let our guard down at all, even after the first few weeks of the season. We took everything seriously and followed the protocols. After I saw how everything worked and folks were following the new procedures, I knew we could make it. Being at home, I felt confident in what we were doing, but I didn’t have any control when the team traveled to other venues.”
Fanta said he didn’t think too much about the organization being a model for how to safely conduct its season amid the pandemic.
“I did have a few groups reach out to me to see how we handled things,” he said. “We made our plans public on our website, but there were lots of good things we did to make things happen. Obviously, we had to change a few things this year compared to last year with how we run things at the stadium.”
The team dealt with one COVID-19 scare halfway through the season in Rockford.
“A part-time member of their staff tested positive for COVID,” said Fanta. “To be sure, they closed things down for a bit. At the same time, Rockford lost some players who went back to college, so we were wondering if we’d get to play them in our scheduled home games after the incident, but it all worked out.”
At the very least, Fanta said the completed season gives the team a model to approach for next year.
“We proved – even if things don’t get any better with COVID for next season … I’d assume they will – we can get through a season,” he said. “That gives us some certainty going into the offseason. Fans didn’t see exactly what they expect on a normal basis this year with fan entertainment on the field, but hopefully, we can get back to that soon.”
On the offensive side, first baseman/designated hitter Nick Kreutzer (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) led Green Bay with a .333 batting average.
In 32 games, he swatted seven doubles and four home runs while driving in 14 runs.
His .433 on-base percentage led the team.
Nadir Lewis (Princeton) paced the outfielders by appearing in 24 games and posting a .266 average, five home runs, nine stolen bases and a .330 on-base percentage.
After an early-season injury, his return provided a spark to the offense, and he was named a 2020 Northwoods League All-Star.
Freshman shortstop Andy Blake (Columbia) led all Booyah players in games played (45), hits (42) and runs (28) while contributing four home runs and 14 RBI.
On the mound, returning starter Logan Lee (Northwood) paced the pitching staff.
In eight games, he posted a 3-0 record and led the team in innings pitched (35) and strikeouts (33), while posting a 2.83 earned-run average.