More than three quarters of the way into the longest baseball season of his life, Forrest Chadwick welcomes the three-day all-star break afforded to him this week by the Northwoods League of the upper Midwest.

The Gardiner Area High School graduate and University of Southern Maine junior has already played 89 games, 46 of those this spring for USM.

“I knew what I was getting into when I signed up,” Chadwick said. “I enjoy playing every day.”

Chadwick plays for the Lakeshore Chinooks, a first-year team based in Mequon, Wis., composed of Division I, II and III collegians.

“It’s mainly D-1 kids with a few D-2 and D-3 sprinkled in,” Chadwick said. “It’s quite a bit different from what I’m used to seeing.”

Chadwick is holding his own despite hitting with a wooden bat and facing pitchers who throw as high as the mid-90s. Southern Maine coach Ed Flaherty recommended Chadwick to Chinooks coach John Vodenlich when he faced Vodenlich’s Wisconsin-Whitewater team in a Div. III game in Florida last spring. Vodenlich got a brief look at Chadwick, who collected two of the four hits allowed in a 4-0 Wisconsin-Whitewater win.

“Everything that Coach Flaherty told me about him is really right on and true,” Vodenlich said. “To hit .300 in this league with wooden bats, if you look at the stats across the league, that’s not typical. Almost every pitcher is a high-quality pitcher.”

Chadwick’s average has dropped to .275 of late but he hopes to get his second wind after the break. He’s been batting second and sometimes leadoff for the Chinooks and has scored 29 runs and stolen 12 bases. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound outfielder also has five home runs and 24 RBIs. Despite Vodenlich’s praise, Chadwick said it took him a couple of weeks to adjust to hitting with a wooden bat.

“You have to have a shorter swing and be able to handle the inside pitches,” he said.

Playing outfield has also been an adjustment for Chadwick, who bats left and throws right. He’d been a lifelong infielder and occasional pitcher in youth league and high school but Flaherty moved him to the outfield this year to take advantage of his speed and to get another infield bat into the lineup.

“It’s a new position that I’m still learning,” said Chadwick, who has played all three outfield spots this summer. “As far as getting to the next level it’s definitely where I belong.”

Like many parts of the country, the Midwest has been especially hot this summer. Staying hydrated is a must but otherwise Chadwick has enjoyed his stay in Wisconsin. He’s staying with a host family about two minutes from the ball park and plays in front of crowds that average 1,200 each home game. A recent game the Chinooks played in Madison drew over 6,000 fans.

The 16-team league includes teams from Wisconsin, Minnesota and one from Ontario and the long bus rides are a good way for the team to bond.

“We definitely have a close-knit team,” Chadwick said. “We have a lot of fun. The coaches, they keep it loose.”

When the club gets on the field, though, expectations are high, Chadwick said. There are 18 games left in the season and unless the Chinooks go on a tear, they’ll miss the playoffs. Chadwick will have about a month off before beginning fall baseball at USM.

“I absolutely believe he has the ability to get an opportunity to play at the next level,” Vodenlich said. “He’s getting better every day. We’re excited to have him.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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