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Northwoods League exercises option to play in Mitchell, but no decision official yet

Big-time baseball talent took one more step toward arriving in Mitchell.

The Northwoods League, a college wood-bat summer league, has exercised its option agreement with the city of Mitchell, according to Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell.

The league will pay the city $10,000 for the ability to play 39 games at Drake Field next season, Powell said, but exercising the option doesn't mean a new Mitchell franchise will be established.

"So are they coming, I don't know," Powell said.

But, he said, the city will definitely know the Northwoods League's intentions by next April, when the schedule needs to be finalized for the use of city-owned facilities.

The league has long served as a training ground for some of Major League Baseball's top talent. The league has featured former Minnesota Twins reliever Pat Neshek, Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale and reigning World Series MVP Ben Zobrist. Twins prospects Zack Granite and Mitch Garver also spent time in the Northwoods League.

The wood-bat league's plans to expand to South Dakota have been discussed for months. Along with Mitchell, Huron has also been pegged as a possible expansion site.

In an email to The Daily Republic this week, league Chairman Dick Radatz Jr. said no formal decision has been made regarding a Mitchell expansion.

"Still coming to terms with other expansion possibilities," Radatz said.

Some locals have stated concerns about the league's ability to coexist with the State Amateur Baseball Tournament often held in Mitchell, but Powell said the league is willing to work with the city on scheduling concerns that may arise. The state amateur tournament won't be in Mitchell in 2018, however, and will not return until 2019.

With scheduling finalized in April, Powell said the city is content to wait and see what the league's plans include.

"We're OK waiting, we have no objection to that," Powell said.

But sooner may be better for all stakeholders.

"We have space for a third field for practice, and the cost of that isn't very high, so we want to work with (Mitchell) Baseball Association and make sure there's plenty of space for everybody," Powell said. "And we'll do that as soon as we feel it's necessary and we know if (Northwoods League) is coming."

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