“I can’t describe in words the feeling I get playing in front of our home crowd…”
In June, most college baseball players have ended their season and are working hard to stay in shape for next spring. For Matt Cornwell ’11, however, baseball season never ended—in fact, for the OU shortstop, playing baseball in front of hundreds of people was an everyday event.
In the summer of 2010, Matt was signed to play for the Wisconsin Rapids, the newest franchise in the Northwoods League, which is a MLB-sanctioned summer league for top collegiate talent. Last week, the team celebrated its first win of the season, a 3-2 victory over Green Bay.
“The win was amazing,” said Matt. “The town supports us as if we were a professional team. They pack the stands and congratulate us for even the smallest successes…it was really cool to get a standing ovation from over 1,500 people for winning a baseball game. ”
It might not be quite the majors, but players in the Northwoods League join the ranks of some of baseball’s top talent. Just within the 2008 and 2009 Major League Baseball drafts, 277 Northwoods alumni have been chosen to play in the pros, including three first round selections in 2009 and the fourth pick overall. Matt, who has played baseball since he was three years old, hoped to be part of that group one day, and he said playing in the summer league is good practice. They played 70 games during a 3-month season, one that is closely modeled after the minor leagues.
“I love the fact that we play every day,” said Matt of the busy schedule. “It is what pro players do so it makes it feel like we are playing a pro schedule. It hasn’t been too tough to adjust to because almost every game is at night so we have plenty of time to sleep, get up, eat, get over to the ballpark and then get ready to play.”
Matt plays half of his games on the road, and the other 35 at his home field in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. When he was not at practice or playing a game, he stayed with a host family in the area. ”They are all are just such nice, selfless people. They open up their homes to college kids and spend money they don’t have to be spending on feeding us and housing us.”
“I think playing here is only going to make me an even better player when I return to Oglethorpe. I will have spent the summer facing some great pitching and playing baseball at an extremely serious level so when I return to OU I plan on maintaining the professional attitude from this league and hopefully showing the guys back at school what it takes to play this game at the highest level.”