Appleton has been the home of the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship since 2000. And for the eight teams competing for this year's national title, Wisconsin has already shown them and their fans a good time. Tailgaters set up shop outside Fox Cities Stadium as the smell of brats and burgers wafted through the parking lot.
"The (Washington & Jefferson College) Presidents are here to have a good time, but we're here to win," said Jake Trainor, a fan who traveled from Philadelphia to see the tournament. "Wisconsin is unbelievable. The hospitality is great, everything. It's so welcoming with open arms. And the beer cheese is phenomenal."
Brian Burgert of Oshkosh has been coming to take in the collegiate baseball tournament since the area began hosting it almost two decades ago.
"Having the opportunity to be up here for four games on a Friday, being here for opening ceremonies, seeing all eight teams play - I think it's a great venue for the city of Appleton."
The Washington & Jefferson College Presidents won Game 1 on Friday morning, 4-2, topping the Concordia University Chicago Cougars. Shortstop Nick Gatins notched three hits and 2 RBI in the win.
"Oh it's fantastic - nothing but the best," he said of the Fox Valley hospitality so far. "We went to Lambeau Field, and had a lot of cheese curds at a couple restaurants. It's been nice."
But the Presidents are focused on the task at hand: competing for a national championship.
"Ultimately it is a reward for these guys," said Head Coach Jeff Mountain. "We're not just happy to be here, but you want your guys to experience some things. So I think things fell right for us; we got here Wednesday, which enabled us to have the opportunity to do some things off the field, kind of get away from it for a little bit. They've earned it. They need to have fun here. That's kind of been the mindset: It's an all-around good experience for the players."
In the school's first championship tournament appearance, Washington & Jefferson will take the diamond Saturday at 1:15 p.m. against Roanoke. Being a double-elimination tournament, games continue throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday. The best-of-three championship series set for Monday through Wednesday.