The Madison Mallards are as good as they’ve ever been. That’s the mood around the Duck Pond as the organization enters its 18th season when play begins on May 28.
This year, the Mallards will look to capitalize on what was a landmark season in 2018. The Mallards went 49-23 which was the best record in the league and the most games the team has ever won. The Mallards were the overall number 1 seed in the playoffs for the first time as well but suffered a disappointing playoff loss to the eventual league champions, the Fond Du Lac Dock Spiders.
But, for Mallards General Manager Tyler Isham, the electricity of the 2018 season is one he’ll always remember. The Mallards ripped off a 13 game winning streak during last season and Isham says the Madison fans were a big, big part of it.
“Last year was our best year ever on the field,” Isham told Madison365. “It was awesome and the energy in the ballpark was amazing. In 2017, I don’t think we had a win streak longer than 3 games. Last year we had three win streaks of 7 or more including a 13-game win streak. You got to the ballpark and just felt like ‘We’re not gonna lose.’ I hadn’t had the opportunity to have that feeling before and not many people in sports do.”
The biggest part of the Mallards success in Isham’s mind is the presence of longtime manager Donnie Scott, who is entering his seventh season leading the Mallards. Following an 8 year professional playing career in MLB, Scott led the Billings Mustangs to 4 Pioneer League championships and has won 2 championships in the Northwoods League, one with Battle Creek and one with the Mallards in 2013.
“I think a big success as far as the team goes is Donnie Scott being our manager,” Isham said. “We’ve made the playoffs in five of the seven seasons he’s been manager. He’s a big league manager and we get the privilege of having him here in our organization. As long as we have him around we have as good a chance as any.”
Isham has other reasons for optimism as well. The Mallards are returning several of the team’s best players from 2018 including all-stars David Vinsky and Trevor Schwecke, along with pitchers Alex Reyes and Nick Morales.
Isham is also excited about the return of up-and-comers Nick Gile and Cameron Cratic, who attends Madison College.
“We’ve returned seven guys from last year’s team,” Isham said. “They’re going to provide a lot of leadership and help some of the young guys coming in.”
As always, the Mallards will have an extremely fan-friendly atmosphere and promotional schedule. The highlights will be a Game of Thrones night where fans will receive a Thrones themed bobblehead with Millie the Dragon sitting on the Iron Throne on July 14.
On June 27, the Mallards will have a Star Wars night where the team will wear Star Wars-themed uniforms, and on July 31 they will have Harry Potter night to celebrate Harry’s birthday.
A special day this season (by chance of the schedule) will be a game June 16 on Father’s Day. The game will be at 1:05 p.m. and the Mallards will be partnering with Stoddard’s Meat Market from Cottage Grove. There will be a meat raffle during the game that fans can sign up for throughout the contest and the team will be giving away gift certificates to Stoddard’s.
But even in describing the fun and extracurriculars that will be transpiring during 2019, Isham’s thoughts return to the biggest thing he hopes will transpire: another championship. The Mallards are so close to championship contention they can taste it.
“You get the itch,” Isham says with a more serious tone. “You get a sniff of the playoffs and a sniff of what it is (to be championship level). Having the returners back really sets the tone. They did it last year and they can do it again. It’s been almost six years since our last championship. We’re chomping at the bit and we’re ready to get after it next month.
“It snowed on Saturday. It’s been a really long winter,” he adds. “We start on May 28 and when Mallards baseball starts, that’s when summer starts.”