In Lake Tomahawk, the phrase “Take me out to the ballgame” has a different meaning. Instead of peanuts, there’s popcorn. Instead of Cracker Jack, there’s homemade pie. And instead of cleats, the teams take the field in a less functional form of footwear: snowshoes.
Since 1961, the town of Lake Tomahawk has hosted this unusual twist on America’s pastime. The nine-inning snowshoe baseball game is played using a softball and an infield covered in sawdust. The players have to hit, field and pitch wearing snowshoes.
Cole Punches is an outfielder for the home team, the Snowhawks. He says sometimes players are afraid of looking ridiculous but he tells them, “Well, we all look stupid. We’re running around in snowshoes in the summer, so just do it, and it’s fun.”
Every Monday night during the summer, fans fill the bleachers to watch Punches and the Snowhawks take on a visiting team. Punches says snowshoe baseball has become more than just a game. It’s a community event. He says volunteers at the concession stand joke that people come for the pies and stay for their snowshoe baseball game. Mid-game, a butterfly net is passed around the bleachers to collect donations and help keep the lights on.
“We got new lights and we have fencing,” says Punches. “Everything we have is thanks to the people that come to the games. It’s awesome. You know there’s some really great fans here.”
Not all fans are locals. Some are tourists. Steve Hawley was attending from Boise, Idaho. He says came out for one reason, “They’re in snowshoes! When was the last time you played baseball in snowshoes? It’s awesome.”
Just another night in Lake Tomahawk’s version of the old ball game.