A tradition dying out in northend/Paul Peterson
Driving by the baseball park in Kearsarge recently, it struck me that the field isn’t being used by any Copper Country Twilight League teams this summer.
That’s hard to believe for anyone who has followed local baseball for any length of time.
The disappearance of senior baseball in the northend area is mystifying.
There was a time when the Twilight League had a north division comprised of teams like Wolverine, Copper City, Mohawk, Ahmeek and Calumet. Even the Calumet Air Force Base put out teams for a few years.
Of course, there were also five or six teams in the south division of the thriving league at one time. Back in those days, only the top four teams qualified for the playoffs.
Players like Bud Patrick, “Buckshot” Jurmu, Butch Tauriainen, Bill Leskinen and Jim Harter were prominent names early on.
In later days, Dave Cima, Jim Oikarinen, Cliff Nichols, Ray Henderson and Dave Heinonen were standouts.
“The problem was that when the older players retired, there were very few young kids to take their place,” commented Paul Hill, who played and managed Wolverine teams for many seasons. “The number of teams up here just dwindled away.”
Now, I know there are plenty of fine athletes in the C-L-K area. Calumet High School has produced more good athletic teams than any local school in recent years.
And there isn’t an American Legion baseball program going, either, although some northend youngsters have played for the Hancock entry the past couple of seasons.
But apparently the majority of youngsters north of the bridge are not interested in playing baseball.
It can be argued that some are playing slowpitch softball. But those games are played on different nights than the Twilight League, so players could find time if they wished to do so.
Speaking of slowpitch, the local numbers there have also declined sharply in recent years.
The local league that once featured three divisions with nine teams in each division is now down to eight teams total.
Only the efforts of Daron Durocher of Stanton and a few others have kept the Twilight League afloat the last couple of years.
But it makes you wonder just how long the once-proud league can keep going without an infusion of younger players.
In fact, the closest thing to senior baseball at the well-manicured field in Kearsarge this year will likely come when the Wolverine Oldtimers host Portage Lake in one of the two games they play against each other every summer.
And that doesn’t seem right.