Booyah hoping to bounce back after COVID-19 pandemic
By Rich Palzewic
ASHWAUBENON – After the COVID-19 pandemic last summer put a monkey wrench into sports around the country, the Green Bay Booyah Baseball Club found a way to make it work – at least partially.
Combined with a reduced schedule, the Booyah allowed 25% capacity inside Capital Credit Union Park in Ashwaubenon and required fans to wear masks and social distance.
“This season, we don’t have any restrictions,” said John Fanta, vice-president, and general manager of the Booyah. “We’re following suit with the industry.”
That means there are no attendance restrictions and masks won’t be required.
Green Bay opens the season Monday, May 31, at Fond du Lac before hosting the Dock Spiders the next night, June 1, at 6:35 p.m.
With a local flare of seven players, the Booyah will have a younger squad, said first-year field manager Tristan Toorie.
“It’s nice to have local players because it shows fans and younger players it’s possible to play in your hometown after you graduate from high school,” he said. “Also, they’re solid players who will help us win games. The fans will be excited to see familiar names. I’m excited about the season.”
Bay Port’s Jake Berg (catcher, Jacksonville), De Pere’s Will Semb (pitcher, Iowa), Green Bay Preble’s Max Wagner (infielder, Clemson) and Ryan Stefiuk (pitcher, Vanderbilt), West De Pere’s Ben Hampton (pitcher, West Virginia) and Connor Langreder (pitcher, Northern Illinois) and Hortonville’s Bubba Thompson (infielder, Southern) can all sleep in their own beds at night instead of staying with area host families.
“It’s different now that the season is here,” Toorie said. “When I first talked (to The Press Times) last December, the season was far off. When I made it through my college season (Anderson University, which competes in NCAA Division II as a member of the South Atlantic Conference), it became more real. Now, I’m driving to Green Bay and will meet the coaching staff and players.”
During his seven-year coaching career at various levels, Toorie has coached 34 student-athletes who have played professional baseball.
Twelve of the 16 full contract position Booyah players are left-handed hitters, which should come in handy at Capital Credit Union Park because the right-field wall is similar to Fenway Park’s left-field wall in Boston – a shorter distance from home plate and tall.
“When I got hired, John (Fanta) told me about the unique wall in right field,” Toorie said. “I pulled up the field on Google Maps and was able to measure from home plate to right field. It makes it easier to hit home runs, and it caters to our players. It should help us be more productive offensively.”
The Booyah have six returning players, including Wagner, Stefiuk, Hampton, Ben Hart (pitcher, Dixie State), Nadir Lewis (outfielder, Princeton) and Logan Lee (pitcher, Northwood).
“I love the continuity of the team,” Toorie said. “It’s a good mix, but we’re a bit young in my mind. It’s nice to see new players cycle in, so I’m happy we have six to start the season with. We have quite a few (college) freshmen and sophomore players, so I’m hoping many of them come back in the following seasons.
Toorie said fans can expect to see an aggressive style from his assistant coaches and players.
“I want to give my coaches a chance to flourish with their styles,” he said. “I have my thumb on things, but I’ve told our players I want them to do what makes them great. I don’t want them to fear doing something they do well and then get taken out of the game if it doesn’t turn out. I want to put runs on the board every inning. If we score a run every inning, that adds up to nine – we’ll win most games if we score that much.”
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Editor’s note: The Booyah dropped their season-opener May 31 in Fond du Lac, 13-3.