There’s plenty of notable players who cut their teeth in Wisconsin’s Home Talent League before reaching Major League baseball.
Perhaps most famous is Cazenovia’s Ryne Duren, a three-time all-star with the New York Yankees who led the American League in saves in 1958 and won a World Series the same season.
There was Black Earth’s Gene Brabender who won a World Series as a pitcher with the Baltimore Orioles in 1966.
Richland Center’s Vern Geishert is notable for being part of the trade that sent 1977 National League MVP George Foster from California Angels to the Cincinnati Reds.
And Connie’s Home Plate tavern in Ashton still stands in tribute to former Washigton Senators pitcher and hometown hero Connie Grob.
But pretty soon, Richland Center’s Bradie Ewing might be the first Home Talent League alum to make the jump to the National Football League.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Ewing at the recent NFL Combine in Indianapolis, professional football’s version of a job interview.
He didn’t play in very many games for his hometown baseball team––he says he only actually played in one or two––but it’s hard to blame him for instead focusing on a sport that may soon lead him to a career in professional football.
Ewing does, however, have fond memories of playing for the local baseball team.
“It was cool,” said Ewing at Lucas Oil Stadium. “Obviously a lot of guys from the hometown, they enjoy playing the game, and they come together and do it, and they have a lot of fun with it, but they take it pretty seriously too.”
Those were the days before Ewing’s football career at the University of Wisconsin got serious.
The Badgers fullback was part of one of the most successful stretches in school history as Wisconsin won consecutive Big Ten titles in 2010 and 2011 and qualified for back-to-back Rose Bowls in 2011 and 2012.
In his senior season Ewing was named one of Wisconsin’s captains and was later honored by being chosen to participate in the Senior Bowl, the most prestigious college all-star game in the country.
And now Ewing is about to make his living playing in the NFL, which was pretty hard to believe for a kid growing up in small-town Wisconsin.
“I always had the dreams,” said Ewing. “I didn’t know if it would ever come true, but I’ve been working for it, and I’ve been doing my best and to have this opportunity to be here is just another step to that goal. I feel really blessed.”