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20141206 Northern Iowa at Illinois State - Images by Alan Look
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by Steve Robinson
The Normal CornBelters of the Frontier League were, no doubt, glad to come home to The Corn Crib having finished their season opening series at River City over the weekend, coming away with a 2-1 record.
While the CornBelters have duked it out for three games versus the Gateway Grizzlies to open the six-game homestand, and will host Washington this weekend, the fans have found a few changes at the ol’ ballpark.
First, fans have found thing to be different at the concession stands, with team management, led by General Manager Steve Malliet, opting to do their concessions in-house, severing ties with Sodexo, the company that had been handling concessions the last few years at the ballpark. As a result, Malliet said, “We’re lowering our prices substantially so we’ll have the lowest prices of any baseball team in Illinois.”
But food prices aren’t the only thing improved upon as the team is spending around $100,000 to put a new covering over the concourse areas, something they’ve not had before (but I know many fans probably had been hoping to see – especially after being a game where they experienced a sudden downpour).
That new covering will come in handy, too, considering a change in start times for Sunday games. The team is moving them up from 6 p.m. to 3 p.m. During the week, ‘Belters games will have the first pitch at 6:30 p.m. The team had experimented with a 6 p.m. start a couple of seasons ago and found it prompted fans to be in a rush to get to the ballpark, and that a 7 p.m. start caused some families with children to leave before the game ended. Malliet said team management thinks the change will enable families to enjoy complete games.
“We had a lot of families say, ‘the start time change would be nice because we have to get the kids back home and if it started earlier, we could stay later,’” Malliet explained. As a result of the time changes, gates at The Corn Crib will open at 5:30 p.m. during the week and on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. for Sunday games. Families wanted to see better prices, too, Malliet said of another of the concerns fans expressed during the offseason.
Back to the subject of the food, “We’re going to offer some different items that we’ve never offered before,” Malliet explained. He added that coming to the ballpark early will be to fans’ advantage because there will be items that will be for half-price for the first 45 minutes after the gates open on game days. That means the half-price period will be between 5:35 p.m. to 6:20 p.m.during the week and from 2:05 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. on Sundays. “We just want people to come out and try it, and see what brand of concessions we have out here,” Malliet said.
The affordability of the concessions items was what Malliet said he heard most about from fans during the offseason, prompting the change.
As for on-the-field, Malliet is in sync with Manager Brooks Carey in feeling the team will have “a real good offensive team this year, and of course, we have one of the best offenses in the league.”
“I’m excited because people will see a really good product on the field this year,” Malliet concluded. With the food changes and stadium upgrade, all of that will lead to a great season for us.”
Starting with a shutout doesn’t hurt, either. Normal opened the season with an 8-0 blanking of the Rascals on May 15, followed by a 5-4 win May 16, before dropping a 2-1 decision Sunday. The team had an off-day Monday. In fact, The CornBelters will not play a game on Mondays all season, something that has been part of their schedule for the last few years.
CornBelters win home opener over Grizzlies 9-2
The Normal CornBelters, presented by Illinois Corn Farmers, surged to 3-1 on the young season while keeping the Gateway Grizzlies winless in a 9-2 decision on CEFCU Opening Night Tuesday at the Corn Crib.
The CornBelters broke onto the scoreboard first with a pair of runs in the second inning. Ozney Guillen led off the frame with a flare double to the left field line, then went to third on a fielder’s choice and scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Dylan Kelly. Cameron Monger followed up with a solo home run that just cleared the left field fence.
The Belters added a run in the third with two outs when Santiago Chirino doubled to the left field corner to score Guillen from second base.
Normal exploded in the fifth inning as the first six hitters reached base off Gateway starter Dejai Oliver on five hits and an error, knocking him out of the contest. The Belters batted 10 men in the frame with RBI hits coming from Aaron Dudley, Richard Lucas and Chirino to grab an 8-0 lead.
The Grizzlies clubbed solo homers in the sixth and seventh innings by Blake Brown and Rolando Gomez to cut their deficit to 8-2.
The Belters added insurance in the eighth when Mark Micowski led off with a walk, advanced to third on a double by Pat McKenna and scored on a ground out by Sam Judah.
Kevin Brahney (1-0) worked five shutout innings for the win, giving up four hits while striking out five without a walk. Oliver (0-1) took the loss
ISU Men’s Basketball Headed to Spain
The Illinois State men’s basketball team will take an international trip to Spain in late summer (Aug. 7 – Aug. 16) according to head coach Dan Muller.
“It’s great that we have an administration that supports our program and allows us to go on a trip like this,” Muller said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for our team to grow together and share a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
ISU plans to play four games during the 10-day trip. Specific opponents and dates have yet to be determined. Illinois State is scheduled to arrive in Madrid, Spain, Friday, Aug. 7, and depart from Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Aug. 16.
“The extra practices will be very beneficial to our team, and of course, the games will give us great experience,” Muller said. “In all of my years as a player and coach, these trips have been tremendously beneficial to the teams the following year because of the extra work and bonding, and I certainly hope that will be the case this year.”
Along with their games and extra practice time, the Redbirds will enjoy an unparalleled multicultural experience more than 4,000 miles away from Normal. ISU will also be allowed 10 practices before leaving for Spain. Each NCAA Division I men’s basketball program is permitted to take an international trip every four years. ISU last traveled to Canada prior to the 2011-12 campaign.
Illinois State aims to build off of last season’s 22-13 record and postseason appearance in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), after falling just short in the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. The Redbirds upset No. 8 Wichita State during their MVC Tournament run, and ISU has beaten a Top-25 team in each of its last four seasons.
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