ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) — With Curtis Granderson, Chris Sale and Max Scherzer among the alumni, the Northwoods League has served as a meaningful stepping stone for many a college player to a professional career over two-plus decades.

The reach of the 18-team league has increased, with teams in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ontario playing 72-games over a 76-day season.

Current college enrollment is the only prerequisite for participation, with clubs recruiting players through connections at various NCAA programs. Strict rules protect pitchers, such as five days of rest required after appearances of 100-plus pitches. Relievers can't pitch on consecutive days.

The Northwoods League founders weren't sure how long it would last past its 1994 inception. Dick Radatz Jr., a former college player with operational and promotional experience in the minors used his savings to help spawn the league with a $25,000 downpayment.

The league's franchise fee is now $1 million with attendance this summer averaging nearly 1,600 a game. It runs on a for-profit model, with 5 percent of team revenues redirected to league-fueled investments.

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