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Wednesday 20th August, 2003

Wrap-Up 13:00 PDT by ike

After the All-Star break, I could start to sense the end of the season looming on the horizon, and with each passing series the excitement built a little more we pushed to the finish. As it happened, Mike and I worked our last two regular-season series in Thunder Bay, Ontario, including a rain-delayed, curfew-shortened, five-and-a-half hour marathon on the last day of the season. At least I had the bases...

From Thunder Bay, Mike and I made the trek down to St. Cloud to join up with the crew of Jason Ross and Ryan Burich to work the North Division Playoff Series together between Alexandria and St. Cloud. The series proved extremely competitive, and a true rivalry seemed to develop between the two teams, which are separated by only 60 miles on I-94. In fact, a signle run marked the margin of victory in each of the three games, and it took St. Cloud 13 innings to emerge victorious in the third and decisive game. The South Division Series also went three games, with Wisconsin defeating Madison in the bottom of the ninth in the final game to take the series.

The regular season records dictated that St. Cloud would host the first game of the Championship Series, and Wisconsin the last two. My supervisor assigned me Game 1 behind the plate, and the last two games off (eight umpires and a six-man crew meant two bystanders per game). With my westbound exit vector, that Game 1 plate job served as my last game/night in the Northwoods League, and I departed early AM the next day for Vancouver, BC, to collect my sister, Abby, who was due to complete her cross-country bike trip (Bike and Build) there in a few days' time.

So I headed out of MN, opting for the southern route through South Dakota in order to see Mt. Rushmore. (Might as well, right? When else will I be in SD?) A stop at the SD visitor center revealed that I could also take a short detour from the Interstate and catch a smart part of Badlands National Park, which sounded pretty sweet. So I blasted across SD and did the Badlands loop (thanks a lot for not mentioning the $10 entrance fee, Visitor Center Lady -- turkey), then cruised into the Black Hills Nat'l Forrest to check out Rushmore, which was definitely money. I especially liked Lincoln's eyes, and the illusion of the lenses of TR's glasses. I ended up crashing for the night in Spearfish, SD, and the next day I embarked on another serious haul, which spanned five states: SD, WY, MT, ID and WA. I spent the second night in Moses Lake, WA (west of Spokane), then completed the last leg to Vancouver the following day, taking time to stop in Seattle and visit college friend Stina -- yay. The glacially slow international crossing delayed my arrival in BC somewhat, but I made the redezvous successfully, and enjoyed two perfectly sunny days in Vancouver with Abby and the rest of her crew. Monday morning finally marked the day for the homeward journey, and 16 hours later, Abby and I pulled up at 1045 Leneve...

Some photos from the last part of the season and the drive to BC/back home:

Umpires Justin Moore (left)(league leader in ejections)(14) and Jason Ross

Everyone out for a drink after Game One of the Championship Series
(From front L around to front R) Mike, Jason, Neil, Ryan, Justin, Dick, Adam, Winston, John, Ike, Ryan, John, Matt)

Uncle Neil

The Corn Palace

Badlands National Park

Mt. Rushmore

Smoky conditions outside Missoula, MT


Here are the final totals:

Days: 83
Miles: 13,275
States/Provices: 16 (CA, NV, UT, CO, NE, IA, MN, WI, ONT, SD, WY, MT, ID, WA, BC, OR)
Oil Changes: 1
Flat Tires: 0

Games: 68
Days Off: 4
Partners: 3 (Ryan Stockdale, Jason Sletta, Mike Weinstein)
Largest Crowd: 5,684 (Rochester vs. Madison)
Baseballs Rubbed Up: ~1000
Walk-Off HRs: 2
Ejections: 6 (3 Managers, 3 Players)
Best Defensive Play: Eric King (2B, ALX), over-the-shoulder, bare-handed catch of looping flyball to center
Fastest Pitch: 97mph (Thomas Diamond, STC, during All-Star Game)

Finally, I want to thank those people that made my NWL experience manageable: my family, Uncle Neil and the Nieces, Winston, John, Dick and my fellow umpires. I would be lying if I said there weren't times I wanted to just walk off the field and go home, but you all helped me stick it out, and in the end I look back at the experience as a success. Sincerely, thanks...

Wednesday 23rd July, 2003

Big Crowds, Green Bay, WQ 16:00 CDT by ike

Mike and I started our post-All-Star schedule in Madison, where record-setting crowds came to see the Mallards host Rochester. On Friday the 'Duck Pond' hosted over 6,000 people, breaking the previous league record by nearly 300, and the next night there were over 6,500 fans! A spectacular postgame fireworks display served as a fitting end to an exciting night at the ballpark.

We also took the opportunity to sight-see a little during the day -- photos from the State Capital and the street fair 'Maxwell Street Days' (think Telegraph Ave) follow:

From Madison Mike and I zipped up to Wausau, where we enjoyed a day off yesterday. Since 'metropolitan' Wausau doesn't offer much in the way of excitement, I took the opportunity to visit Green Bay (Mike opted to stay behind), home of the Packers and legendary Lambeau Field. Upon my arrival in the stadium parking lot, I noticed a crowd of people by a field adjacent to Lambeau. Further inspection revealed that the Packers were holding an open practice to mark the opening of their training camp, so joined the others and watched the offense run plays against the defense for a while. After speaking with an elder fan from Milwaukee, I learned that the team would walk from the practice field to the locker room (in the main facility) and accomodate autograph seekers along the way. Although I failed to hook up any signatures, mainly because I didn't recognize anyone without the help of his jersey number, I did get a couple of photos...

Finally, I've added a few items to the Weekly Quiz Competition, so take a look and send me your responses. Good luck!

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