Just as the sun rose on the 2018 summer baseball season in Wisconsin, it also started setting on the sport for good.
With the WIAA announcing earlier this year that this would be the last season of summer baseball in the state, Wednesday’s opening day of the summer regular season also marked the final such day,
Without a cloud in sight and the temperature in the mid-70s late into the afternoon, the weather in Germantown for the Warhawks’ 9-2 victory over Oak Creek couldn’t have been any better for a season opener. But soon, the shorts, sunglasses and the firing up of the grill will be traded in for a few more layers in spring baseball.
“I’m sure going to miss it,” Germantown head coach Jeff Wolf said. “This is 25 years for me as an assistant or head coach. It’s kind of bittersweet. We’re going to enjoy it and take it one game at a time.”
When the WIAA made its announcement in March, the summer baseball circuit had seen its number of teams dwindle below 40 starting with next year.
Oak Creek, one of the powerhouse summer programs in the state, was among the teams that brought that number down, announcing its intent to move to the spring in 2019. Still, Knights coach Scott Holler also hailed the final season as ‘bittersweet.’
“It’s a little sad knowing that this is the last year,” Holler said. “I know I’ve been a summer guy my entire life.”
The switch to spring ball was a needed move in his mind, however.
“I know I took some of it on the chin when we made our announcement,” Holler said. “People said that now that we’re going, everyone else will and summer ball will go away. That wasn’t our intention. We made the decision based on what our community wanted.”
With players wanting to participate on traveling teams in the summer, whether for increased exposure to scouts or the greater volume of games played, the Knights have seen their number of athletes at tryouts get smaller and smaller. This year’s total of 62 was the lowest in at least two decades at Oak Creek, down from an average of 85-90.
“Supposedly, six or eight really good freshmen players didn’t try out this year because they’re playing on a freshman traveling team,” Holler said. “That’s what I’ve said all along. We’re not losing a lot of juniors and seniors; we’ve been lucky and had them play for us. We’re losing the freshmen and sophomores that want to play 60 games in a summer and not cram in the 25, 28 or so that we’ll play.”