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High School Highlights
2015 ISU Athletics Hall of Fame Class Announced
The 2015 Illinois State Athletics Percy Family Hall of Fame class was officially announced Monday, as Brian Anderson (men’s golf), 2004 Missouri Valley Conference medalist and four-time All-MVC selection; Kristi Cirone (women’s basketball), Illinois State’s all-time leading scorer and three-time MVC Player of the Year; Neal Cotts (baseball), a First-Team All-MVC pitcher and 2005 World Series champion; Laurént Robinson (football), All-American wide receiver and NFL standout; and Liina Suurvarik (women’s tennis), four-time MVC No. 1 singles champion and four-time All-MVC selection, will each become members of the Redbird Hall of Fame.
In addition to the 2015 Hall of Fame class, Rudy Klokkenga, who supported Illinois State Athletics in various volunteer roles for over a decade, will be honored with the Campbell “Stretch” Miller Award. The award celebrates the contributions of those whose main services were not playing or coaching, but were important to the program’s success.
The honorees will be officially introduced during the Hall of Fame banquet at 8 a.m., Oct. 24, in the Brown Ballroom at the Bone Student Center on the Illinois State University campus. The class will also be recognized during halftime of the Illinois State-Western Illinois football game later that day. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Reservations for the Hall of Fame ceremony are $25 per person and can be purchased through the ISU Athletics Department. To order tickets for the event or for more information, please call Melanie Piekos at (309) 438-3639.
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Normal CornBelters right hander Kevin Johnson had reason to be skeptical when he first arrived in town when this season started. After five years playing within the minor league system of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Angels released him. A contact through a New York Mets scout at his home church in his native Pensacola, Fla. put Johnson in touch with Normal CornBelters Manager Brooks Carey. That resulted in Carey signing Johnson.
But, as Johnson explained to me, he was skeptical at first of what he was getting into coming here. “But from talking with Brooks, he assured me that everything would be good to go,” Johnson said. “I was skeptical about how the level of play compares to other leagues.” That’s a professional comparison Johnson tried to make based on his six seasons of experience, experience he has had since the Angels signed him after drafting him in the 20th round of Major League Baseball’s Amateur Draft in 2010.
A graduate of the University of West Florida at Pensacola, Johnson said his skepticism on the situation increased slightly when Carey told him he was looking for the CornBelters to fill a slot in the team’s starting lineup. Johnson’s concern was because he had been a closer for the last four seasons for the Angels’ minor league clubs. He hadn’t been a starter since his high school and college days.
“The biggest change as a result of changing assignments for me has been to try to go from generating a routine for throwing every day and then to set up one for every five days,” Johnson said. “It has been really different. He said after the change was presented to him by Carey, he came to the conclusion the switch would make him more marketable to Major League team scouts at this point in his career at age 26.
Johnson admits to being worried at first about changing job assignments but now that he has adjusted his routine and varied his pitches, he’s comfortable in the role. He said he made an individual assessment which compares the Frontier League to having a style of play that one might see in Class A minor league parks.
In 2014, after three years of solid work with teams throughout the Angels system, Johnson said he was with the Angels’ Class AA team in the Texas League in Little Rock, Ark. last season when the Major League club promoted him to their Class AAA squad in Salt Lake City, Utah. But the Angels front office signed five free agents to join Salt Lake. Those signings suddenly made Johnson the odd man out of any pitching rotation at that level and he was released.
“After that, there just wasn’t any room for me, “after putting up a 2.10 Earned Run Average,” Johnson said. Johnson added his release led him to criticize the decision to his bosses. “I said to them, ‘I’ve given you everything I have for five years and this is how I’m repaid?’” he explained.
But he then turns the other cheek in his next thought. “I was happy the five years I was there,” he said. “It was a great five years.”
The best information concerning the Minors Johnson said he can give his younger teammates wanting to advance into the Class system is that “It’s hard enough to get there, but it’s even harder to stay.”
His biggest advice, for pitcher in particular, is to add pitches to their routine and then learn to vary how often certain pitches get thrown to certain opponents. Constantly throwing one type of pitch will become anticipated by hitters, Johnson said. “What they’re taught in affiliated ball is that you never throw the same way to the same hitter twice. You always pitch differently to him every time.”
When he’s on the mound, Johnson said he’s too focused on the job to notice that there are people in the stands watching him, but when he has interactions with fans, their reaction and response to him has been positive, he explained.
Johnson and his wife are expecting their first child, a daughter. “It was always my dream as a little kid to play professional baseball and make it to the major leagues,” he said. His advice to young players: “Don’t ever quit on the dream until you can’t physically play anymore.”
Five CornBelters Selected All-Stars: Five CornBelters players were selected for the 2015 All-Star Game to be played on Wednesday, July 15 at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg. Aaron Dudley, Richard Lucas, Pat McKenna, Mark Micowski and Race Parmenter will be representing the ‘Belters in the contest. Dudley, McKenna and Micowski were selected as starters for the Western Division squad.
‘Belters veteran shortstop McKenna has been at the top of the Frontier League leaderboard for most the season. He is currently tied for the league lead in home runs with 12 and is third in RBI with 37. The longest tenured player of active CornBelters, McKenna is hitting .309 and heading to his second All-Star game.
‘Belters center fielder Micowski, is hitting .318 on the season with 19 stolen bases and 21 RBI. This is the first All-Star game selection for Micowski. Parmenter has stepped into the ‘Belters closer role in the bullpen after a season-ending injury suffered by Eric Anderson. Parmenter has recorded eight saves with a 1.92 ERA on the season. In 28 innings pitched, he has 24 strikeouts. This is his first All-Star game.
League Names Dudley “Player Of The Week”: Dudley made a mark recently for the CornBelters, compiling 14 hits in 26 at bats for a .538 batting average. The 27-year-old also finished with 1 home run, 3 doubles, 5 runs scored, and 9 RBI helping Normal to win 4 out of their 5 games from July 1 – 5. This season, Dudley is hitting .380 in 44 games with 2 home runs and 30 RBI, leading the League in batting average. A Toledo, Ohio native, Dudley is in his third season of professional baseball with the Normal.
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