MARINETTE - Two additions have expanded the Wishigan League into a two-division format with a more travel-friendly schedule.
The Porterfield Truckers are back in the league for the first time since 2007. Kingsford has formed a new Wishigan League team.
There will be five teams - the Truckers, the Marinette Redbirds, McAllister Hunters, Peshtigo Timbers and Crivitz Wolves - in the Wisconsin Division. The Michigan Division will consist of four teams - the Escanaba Polecats, Kingsford Flivvers, Felch Rangers and Tri-County Northstars.
"Very encouraging," league commissioner Mark Klatt said of the league expansion. "It's going to be interesting."
Teams within the division will play each other three times and play each team from the other division once. This saves on traveling and also shortens the season to help avoid conflicts for college students.
Therefore, Wisconsin teams will play 16 games and Michigan teams will play 14.
The league unanimously voted in Kingsford. A short time later, the Truckers asked to rejoin the league.
"Having them so close, it's hard not to have a team in Porterfield when there's support there," Klatt said.
The Wishigan playoffs will consist of the top two teams from each division playing each other, and the winners meeting for the playoff championship Aug. 14 at Marinette's Pedersen Ball Park.
"This is the first time in over 30 years that the league is going to divisions, so it should be an exciting year of baseball in the Wishigan League," Redbirds general manager John LaCourt.
LaCourt has stepped down after 29 years of managing Redbirds baseball. Nick Brukardt will be the player/coach, and his assistant will be player/coach Steve Campbell.
Other veteran players on the Redbirds will be infielder Adam Francour, outfielder/first baseman Scott Hmielewski, shortstop/pitcher Ryan Johnson, catcher Dustin Kovar and Todd Olsen, a first baseman, catcher and pitcher.
Among the younger Redbird players are pitcher/infielders Cody Bezio and Cody Woods, infielder Jordan Powers and Andrew Shaver, a pitcher/outfielder.
Billy Betts is coaching Porterfield. Other league coaches include Jeff Baumann of Crivitz, Chad Grom of Peshtigo, Kyle Watson of McAllister, Dewey Solberg of Felch. John Bittner of Escanaba, Gary Miller in Kingsford and Dave Specker of Tri-County.
In its first season of Wishigan play last season, Crivitz won the league and tourney titles.
PORTERFIELD - A bunch of young ballplayers who don't mind a little hard work can accomplish big things.
Such is the case with the Porterfield Truckers, who are back in the Wishigan League.
After three seasons of inactivity, the ballfield on Shady Lane Drive is back in business.
The seeds for a new season were sewn at the end of Wishigan play last season, when Billy Betts started drumming up interest.
"I wanted to start a team," he said. "I talked to people, but they hadn't had a team in three years."
He talked to some of his former classmates and baseball teammates on the Marinette Marines, Marinette Legion and the Redbirds.
Betts now has a roster of 15 guys who haven't played organized baseball for a couple of years but never really wanted to stop playing, he said.
"I called guys up, and they were more than interested," he said.
The field needed a lot of help, and the Truckers got it. Betts said Town of Porterfield chairman Eugene LaCombe helped out by providing snow fencing for the outfield.
Then, the Truckers purchased the Porterfield Elementary School backstop for $200.
For several weeks, Trucker players have been working on weekends to repair and paint the dugouts and concession stand and erect the fencing. Betts' father, Jeff, has also helped.
Among the players are Matt Lund, a shortstop/pitcher; outfielder/pitcher Matt Jacobs; Josh Plansky and Steven Pettit at first base and pitcher; Randy Hoheneder at shortstop and pitcher; pitcher/catcher Joel Fendrick; third baseman Clark Cleermont; second baseman Alex Bergeson; catcher Zach Bergeson; Aaron Unti in rightfield; pitcher/centerfielder Kyle Kovnesky; Cody Murphy at third and rightfield; rightfielder/leftfielder Justin Borowski; pitcher Kevin Betts; Brad Golz in left and right; and second baseman Adam McDonald.
Billy Betts will pitch and manage.