Above, Ripon native Sam Novitske doubles down the third-base line in the first inning of the Fond du Lac Dock Spiders’ game Monday against the Kokomo Jackrabbits. He strolled home (top) to score a run a couple batters later on a wild pitch.
Above, Ripon native Sam Novitske doubles down the third-base line in the first inning of the Fond du Lac Dock Spiders’ game Monday against the Kokomo Jackrabbits. He strolled home (top) to score a run a couple batters later on a wild pitch.

   When Sam Novitske heard he was going to be sent to the Northwoods League to play baseball this summer, he knew exactly where he wanted to go.

   The Ripon native, who moved to California when he was 12 after his father got a job there, mentioned to his coach at the University of Oregon that he grew up near where the Fond du Lac Dock Spiders play.

   “He was able to get me on to the Dock Spiders because ... I wouldn’t require a host family because I have family that lives in the area,” said Sam, who just finished his freshman season for the Oregon Ducks. “So it kind of all just worked out that way.”

  This summer’s experience, which is winding down, has lived up to Sam’s expectations.

   “[It has been] special,” he said of his time with the Dock Spiders. “Obviously, I [lived] here until I was 12 years old in sixth grade and then my family moved out to California. So it’s just been awesome to be back here, kind of reliving what I did in my childhood. I’m actually staying with my grandparents this summer. I grew up at their houses all the time, so to be able to stay back here is special.”

   The ability to live with his grandparents — Mark and Su Novitske and Dave and Judy Gray, all of Ripon — this summer has been a welcome change for Sam from a summer earlier.

   Typically, players — who come from all around the country — are assigned to host families during their time playing summer ball.

   “I played in the West Coast League last summer, so I had a host family,” Sam said. “So I understand the experience from both sides. It definitely can be a great experience as well, but you can definitely have some uneasy feelings going into it. So it definitely is great knowing it’s your grandparents. It’s a lot more assuring.”

   He’s also enjoyed being able to play ball close to where he grew up.

Read the full story, which includes information on some of his childhood memories of playing baseball in Ripon, as well as the success he has had this summer, in the Aug. 8, 2019 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.