Bandits prepare for new season under rookie manager

June 12, 2013

Tom Sawyer is looking to lead the rebuilt Manitowoc Bandits amateur baseball team to another Northeast Wisconsin Baseball League championship.

Wisconsin State League

Tom Sawyer is looking to lead the rebuilt Manitowoc Bandits amateur baseball team to another Northeast Wisconsin Baseball League championship. He may have joked about his iconic name with his players during their first practice on Monday, but is serious about the team’s ambitions.

Sawyer, entering his third year with the Bandits, will be managing for the first time in his young career in which he just completed his junior year on the Ripon College baseball team. He was an active member of last year’s squad, which relied heavily on out-of-state players from the Pacific Northwest, but knew he had to step of this season.

“If I didn’t agree to be the manager this season,” Sawyer said. “We probably wouldn’t have had a team.”

One condition of Sawyer agreeing to take the managerial position was Manitowoc wouldn’t compete in the Wisconsin State League in an effort to reduce the amount of games on the schedule and help attract players.

“Dropping out of the WSL was a sticking point of mine,” Sawyer said. “Reducing our schedule from 40 games to 25 really played a factor in attracting guys to play. It’s really difficult to get guys to commit to show up 25 nights a year let alone 40.”

The long schedule had a direct impact on the win-loss column last year. The Bandits were even forced to forfeit a game that went to extra innings when a player had to go to work after the 12th inning, leaving just eight eligible men.

“I thought it’d be a struggle (finding players),” Sawyer said. “But the turnout has been really great.”

Manitowoc’s general manager James Maurer acknowledged the Bandits went through a transition when the average age of the team went from 27 down to 19.

“We had a really veteran team the last four years prior to last summer,” said Maurer. “We wanted to get more local again, more local based. We’re going to be young again but very talented.”

Sawyer decided to recruit from his wheelhouse, getting several players from Ripon and St. Norbert College to join the team including St. Norbert’s Alex Larsen and Travis Mason.

The rookie manager is especting big things from his Green Bay players, especially Larsen and Mason who were both second-team All-Central Region according to and first-team All-Midwest Conference. Larsen led the Green Knights with a .356 batting average and was successful on 22-of-23 stolen base attempts while Mason had 36 RBI and 13 doubles.

Larsen’s speed is one area Sawyer is hoping to exploit, with most of the team having a good blend of power and speed according Sawyer while one area of concern will be pitching.

“We have talented pitchers, that’s not the problem,” Sawyer said. “The problem is most of our guys haven’t been throwing consistenlty for the past month. Once they get into a groove I think pitching could turn into a real strength.”

One of those pitchers is Roncalli graduate and Wisconsin-Whitewater junior Matt Roberts. Roberts went 6-1 with a 3.80 earned run average this past season for the Warhawks.

In the end, nothing short of a NEWBL championship will do for Sawyer and the Bandits.

“We want to be in contention for the title at the very least,” Sawyer added. “We have no intention of wasting our time.”

Story by: Tom Dombeck – 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