Bandits cut schedule, taking a break from WSL

May 3, 2013

Two summers ago, the Manitowoc Bandits finished 35-13. 2012 was a different story.

Wisconsin State League

Two summers ago, the Manitowoc Bandits semipro baseball team finished 35-13, culminating in a championship in the Northeastern Wisconsin Baseball League and high finish in the Wisconsin State league.

But 2012 was a different story.

Many of the regulars on the team “retired” due to family or work issues, and the roster was overhauled. More than two-thirds of the team was brand-new. And it showed on the field, as the squad finished just 10-28 last summer.

The pipeline for local talent has run dry, and because of that, the Bandits will take a break from the rugged WSL and play considerably fewer games in an effort to bring the talent back.

Manitowoc will play 22 games this summer. The team will play 20 games as a member of the six-team NWL, with two non-league games against the Two Rivers Polar Bears and Branch Blaze.

The Bandits have often started the season in mid-May, but this year the first game won’t be until June 12. In all, the 22 games on the slate compares to 48 played last year, and 61 in 2009.

“It’s tough to find kids willing to make that kind of commitment,” Bandits vice president James Maurer said regarding the 60-game schedule “We’re by far the smallest city in the WSL, with no university pipeline in the area.”

Manitowoc has played in the WSL for the last 15 years, and it’s “hands down the best collection of talent in the summer,” said Maurer. “But to play at that level, you have to have a very deep roster, and it has to be very good.

“We struggled with that last year,” Maurer added. “We had some decent pitching that kept us in games, but at the end of the day, we were not able to put a roster (needed) with local talent.”

Last year, there were 16 news players on the team, including 10 from Oregon and Washington from a college pipeline formed. Typically, the Bandits also pull players from the Green Bay and other local areas, but the talent level needed to compete, especially in the Wisconsin State League, was diminished.

This season, Manitowoc won’t play any games on Sundays, which Maurer said will help with getting players who typically compete in the once-a-week county leagues, like the East Shore League and Door County League.

The team has already locked up a few standouts from the DCL. That includes Tom Sawyer, who graduated from Gibraltar High in Door Co. and currently plays at Ripon College. He will act as player/manager, with the hopes of getting into coaching after college.

Maurer said the Bandits have no intention of becoming a “Sunday team,” and the WSL has kept the franchise as a non-participating member in the league, with the expectation — by both sides — that Manitowoc will again compete in the league in the near future.

“We are going to try this short-season format and try to rebuild our talent base,” said Maurer. “We’re excited to give this a roll.”

Maurer doesn’t anticipate an attendance drop due to the shortened season. He said crowds were often smaller on the weekends with so many other local activities to choose from, and weeknights were often bigger draws.

The Bandits are still accepting players for the 2013 season. Those interested in learning more can email

“We certainly hope it’s short-term. Right now, the focus is on building our core while remaining in our competitive league,” said Maurer. “We also wanted to keep our rivalry with Sheboygan, which was very important to us.”

Story by: Adam Thompson, Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter

The Wisconsin State League is one of the premier semi-professional/amateur baseball leagues in the mid-west. In operation since 1970, the Wisconsin State League is a highly competitive league that features many of the midwest's top current and former collegiate athletes, as well as many former professional baseball players. Keep up to date on everything happening in the Wisconsin State League by following the league online on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. | #WSL