I’ve been critical of certain things related to the inception of Independent League Baseball in Bloomington/Normal, predominantly related to decisions made with the stadium construction. I’ve been less than enthused with some of the rhetoric coming from the front office as well, but I’ll just chalk it up to the growing pains that come with starting a professional franchise.
It’s nice to have professional baseball locally, even devoid of a Major League affliation. As transient as this community is, I’m not sure the fanbase will ever be what team owners would like (or projected to potential investors), but crafting a sustainable organization with corporate sponsorships and steadily improving game promotions would be a great thing for BloNo.
With that in mind, I’ve been to a couple games recently, and decided to make notes on ONLY the good things about Normal Baseball, et.al. Just the positives:
- Tickets – unlike a Major League game, tickets are affordable to most, making an evening of entertainment less than a monthly utility bill. For season ticket holders, a missed game is not necessarily a donation; those unused tickets can be redeemed for tickets to another game.
- Parking – it’s never been a problem for me at the Corn Crib. I haven’t been to a game anywhere nearing a sellout, so perhaps the evenings where there are higher attendance figures make the parking situation a little more tenuous. Even if forced to park on the temporary, unpaved area, your walk to the front game is only a minute or so.
- Field Turf – unlike the old model of fields that have dirt on the mound, home plate and bases, the Corn Crib is an all-turf facility, meaning very few rainouts. To the fan, that ensures you’ll get to see a game when you plan to, whether it’s a birthday party or simply a Thirsty Thursday when you already had Friday scheduled off from work. The stadium itself is also laid out in such a way that shade covers almost all of the reserved seating by the second inning of those July games with the 7:00pm start times. Everyone is happy except perhaps the left fielder.
- Radio – our friend and local fixture Greg Halbreib is manning the mike this year, and although working alone, I’ve never noticed any lingering dead airtime. I can’t imagine how hard it is to do a game by yourself – you have to appreciate the man’s craft. Kudos to Vin Scully while I’m at it.
- Kid Friendly – okay, Corny is a bit scary at times, but he is a friendly chap, regardless of who is donning the costume at any given time. I say this after watching a 4-year old slug him last night and he never changed expression OR hit the kid back. There is also that area on the 3rd base side with the bouncing Corny house in the Family Fun Zone.
- Pet Friendly – at least on Dog Days Wednesdays, where you can bring your pet and sit on the lawn beyond the left and right field fences. Stadium workers carry around dog treats, and
- Free Program – it might lack wonderful design elements with blurry photos, but it does contain a fairly up to date roster, some player profiles and team records, along with a scoresheet if that is part of your fan experience. And it’s free!
- Experienced Manager – Hal Lanier not only owns a World Series Ring from his coaching tenure with the St. Louis Cardinals, but he’s also managed at the Major League level with Houston. Clearly, he’s not some team principal masquerading as a baseball guy.
- All-Stars –five CornBelter players have been named to the Frontier League All-Star game for 2011, including Steve Alexander (featured photo, above) who leads the league in home runs currently.
- Local Influence – this week, local U-High and Illinois State University player Tyler McNeely has signed with the CornBelters.
- Website – only the positives here….
- World’s Greatest Bathroom – haven’t seen it, as it happens to be for the ladies. But I’ve heard it is wonderful, with a red velvet couch and granite floors.
- Concessions – first off, beer is $1 a glass during Thursday night games. Corndogs are a $1 for Monday night games. Those promotions aside, I found the concession offerings ample and reasonably priced. Last night, I had a Lemon Shakeup that was cheaper than the County Fair, and bigger. Again, affordable pricing per the Minor League baseball model.
I’m sure there are others. Bottom line – it’s nice to have professional sports in a community this size. Although the fan support is sometimes hit and miss, at present the CornBelters are in the playoff race.
Plenty of good things to talk about.