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.
I was in row two for the opening game of the team’s existence, a 7-0 shellacking of the Evansville Otters in their historic Bosse Field. For the five of us that made the trip, it was an optimistic start to the return of professional baseball to Bloomington/Normal. With two additional wins to complete the weekend sweep, the Normal CornBelters’ first season in the independent Frontier League would start with significant momentum.
As of this writing, they now sit in fourth place in the Western Division (26-33), 18 games out of first and ten games out of playoff contention.
But wins and losses aren’t the topic here. I’m sure there must be growing pains for every franchise, and I would expect nothing different for the ‘Belters. As an occasional patron, I hope to see the franchise succeed, as it’s nice to have a summer entertainment alternative on those nights the CornBelters are at home.
The biggest obstacle was the weather. The frequent storms that postponed the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national softball tournament held locally seemed strong and frequent enough to consider cancelling the trip. But the enticement of seeing the first ever game played by the new local minor league baseball franchise set the journey in motion.
We drove through storms as we headed east towards Danville and the Indiana state line.
We drove through storms as we headed south towards Evansville and the home of Evansville Otters.
And about fifty miles from our destination, the sky cleared and we continued onward towards a perfect night for baseball.