Illinois Corn is proud of the partnership we have forged with the Normal CornBelters and the opportunity to participate in such a tremendous community outreach program! Corn Corps is excited to welcome back Ashlynne Solvie for a few comments on the latest action at the Corn Crib, which is really heating up!
This past week at the Corn Crib marked a few firsts – first ever CornBelters exhibition games, first rain delay of the season, first appearance on a professional team by some of our players, and the first ever CornBelters Player for a Day benefitting the Humane Society of Central Illinois. From May 2nd to 10th, the CornBelters & the Humane Society of Central Illinois teamed up and opened a webpage on the HSCI website where anyone could make a bid to be the CornBelters Player for a Day. This “Player for a Day” would sign an official one-day Frontier League contract, play in the field for a minimum of 1 inning, and have a minimum of 1 at-bat. Hailing all the way from Boston, John Choe (with a silent ‘e’) made the highest bid ($5,000!) and won the bidding war! 100% of his winning bid was given directly to the Humane Society of Central Illinois to help funding to replace its aging boiler system. John’s generous donation will be instrumental in helping them reach their goal!
(Remember, the Humane Society of the US is the lobbying group that doesn’t really help animals and funds anti-agriculture policies. Local Humane Societies are great organizations that care for pets and help them find homes. Give local!)
Choe flew himself and his family to Normal, IL, so he could make his pro baseball debut during the May 13 CornBelters exhibition game versus the Joliet Slammers. Upon arriving to Normal, Choe signed his official contract, put on his uniform, met field manager Hal Lanier and pitching coach Brooks Carey, and took the field to start warming up with the rest of the CornBelters. Just before the third inning of the game, the umpires called a rain delay… things weren’t looking good for Choe to make his appearance in the game! However, immediately following the rain delay, Choe pinch hit to lead off the bottom of the third for the CornBelters!
At bat for the first time on professional turf (no pun intended), Choe took the first strike, but he didn’t let that speeding bullet of a first pitch slow him down! He fouled the next two pitches before hitting a fair ball hard down the first base line – the Joliet Slammers first baseman snagged Choe’s hit with a diving grab and tagged the base a few steps before Choe. But what a great at-bat! After the 1st pitch, Choe didn’t let anything get past him! Choe played right field during the next half inning and had a lot of action out there!
After the game, we had a chance to talk with Choe who said, “It was a great day! The whole experience – the guys were great, being out there, weather held for a part of the night, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more!”
Choe also commented on his at-bat: “The first pitch, well I wanted to swing at it but it was so fast that it went by before I could even start! The second was the latest I could ever be; third was fouled off, and fourth was fair, as late as it could be to stay fair. He [first baseman] made a great play & I’m still smiling!”
Choe also gave us his thoughts on his fielding in right field: “Everyone was very helpful to tell me where to play. We had a southpaw at the mound and a couple lefties in the batter box, so I had to shift over a little bit. I’m glad the ground ball I fielded didn’t get by me. And I hit the cutoff man! On 3 bounces, but hey I hit the cutoff man!”
Overall, Choe was grinning ear to ear the entire night. The whole experience was a dream come true!
Choe’s entire post-game interview!
As we look ahead to start the 2011 CornBelters regular season, we see lots of good things. The final roster will be set Wednesday (May 18) at 2pm. The coaching staff believes that all position players have the ability to bring in lots of runs this season. They are confident in our new hitting coach, Boots Day, former major leaguer, whose skills will help bring batting averages up. Last season’s starting pitchers are returning this season and we have also added the 2010 Frontier League All-Star closing pitcher, Liam Ohlmann. The complete roster can be found at normalbaseball.com.
Public/Media Relations Manager for Normal CornBelters