By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Feb 05, 2004 at 5:14 AM

{image1}Three outdoor sports events in the state heat up February considerably. The Badger State Winter Games, the international ski jump at Westby and the Birkebeiner draw participants from all over the state, country and world.

All three of the events have been plagued by a lack of snow in recent winters, but this year should be in good shape. Decent snow depths exist in all locations for the events.

The Badger State Games actually started last weekend, but reach their climax this coming weekend in Wausau and Central Wisconsin.

Thousands of participants -- ranging from experts to novices -- take part in winter sports ranging from bowling to XC skiing and snowboarding to hockey.

Bowling and youth hockey were held last weekend. The remainder of the schedule is set for this coming weekend.

The international ski jump in Westby is one of this writer's favorites of the winter. Participants come from all over the world to the Kickapoo Valley to compete for two days at the Snowflake Ski Jump. This year's event runs February 13-15.

In the summer, an executive length golf course and Timber Coulee trout stream run over and through the Snowflake property, but in February thousands of spectators and ski jumpers from Germany, France, Russia, Switzerland, Norway, Japan and numerous other countries join American Olympic hopefuls in the competition.

The Birkebeiner, which runs February 21 is the largest U.S. XC ski race and draws skiers from all over the world. Affectionately referred to as the "Birkie," the race runs 51K from Cable to Hayward.

You need not be an expert to ski in the race, however, but some future and former Olympians often are in the field. Last year, Rune Torseth of Norway won the men's division and Kristina Joder of Vermont the women's division.

By the way, the name of the event, which started in Wisconsin in 1973, goes back to the Norwegian Civil War in 1206. Combatants, who skied through the rugged Norwegian mountains, were called Birkebeiners for their protective birch bark leggings.

All three of these events require drives from the Milwaukee area, and you will want to make sure you dress for the outdoors in winter, but the Badger State Games, Westby ski jump and Birkebeiner heat up the state sports scene in February in many ways.

The Brew Crew Review

Keith Ginter feels he earned the right to play every day last season, but he is willing to play any role Brewers' manager Ned Yost asks him to play last year.

"I feel I showed I can play regularly at this level," said Ginter, who took over most of the time at second base after Eric Young departed and ended up with 14 homers and several clutch hits. "I'd like to have one position this season, but also will adapt to what they need."

Ginter admits he was a little upset when the Brewers picked up Craig Counsell and Junior Spivey in the Richie Sexson deal. Both can play second base. But, GM Doug Melvin called him before the deal event went down, and Yost also made sure he talked to him.

"They told me this gives them more depth, which I agree we need," Ginter said. "They also asked me if I could play the outfield. I have, and can, if it means getting playing time."

So, look for Ginter to play a valuable utility role, playing some at second and third base, and perhaps a little in right field.

The Name Game

Kudos to the Bucks' Michael Redd for making the NBA All Star team. Redd also was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for January. Look for more on Redd in next week's column ... The Admirals Andrew Hutchinson and Timofei Shishkanov were named to the U.S. team and Curtis Murphy and Scott Upshall to the Canadian team for the AHL All Star game on February 8 ... Charlie Averkamp scored 42 points and grabbed 22 rebounds to lead New Berlin West to a 84-80 win over De Pere in high school basketball.

Beyond Milwaukee Sports

UW-Whitewater remained in first place in the WIAC with a 77-57 win over Eau Claire. Angelo Griffin scored 14 points to lead the Warhawks, who brought a 17-2 overall record and 9-2 conference mark into this week's action ...I n WIAC women's action, UW-Oshkosh remained in first place at 9-1 with a 72-61 win over Superior. Michele Rosicky led Oshkosh with 18 points.

Steak with LeRoy

Former Green Bay Packer and probable future Hall of Famer LeRoy Butler will be appearing at The Milwaukee Athletic Club on February 11, 2004.

The evening will consist of cocktails, dinner and a speech from LeRoy Butler. LeRoy will speak about his new book "The LeRoy Butler Story: From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap," his life, his college career at Florida State, his 12-year career as a Packer, his former teammate Brett Favre and the future of the Green Bay Packers. The event is open to the public and costs $65 per person. Each guest will receive a steak dinner, a personally autographed copy of LeRoy’s book and a photograph with LeRoy. Cocktail hour begins at 5:30 p.m. with the dinner and speech to follow at 7 p.m. Call (414) 273-5080.

Hot Tix

Redd and the Bucks host New Orleans at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Bradley Center. They host Sacramento next Tuesday at the BC before breaking for the All Star game.

The Wave meets Kansas City at 7 p.m. Thursday at the U.S. Cellular Arena and entertains Philadelphia at 1 p.m. Sunday. The Admirals host Houston at 7 p.m. Friday and Utah at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Both games are at the BC.

In college basketball, Marquette plays at DePaul Saturday afternoon and Wisconsin is at Northwestern on the same day. UWM hosts Wright State at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The Panthers learned this week who their opponent will be in the Bracket Buster on February 21. They will host tough Manhattan at the Arena.

Gregg Hoffmann writes The State Sports Buzz on Thursdays for OMC.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.