Category Archives: Baseball

What’s behind the big pile of dirt on Raab Road?

Dozens of times over the past several months, I have driven past the CornBelters stadium site on Raab Road wondering just what was going on behind the big pile of dirt.

This photo taken from the pressbox, directly behind home plate, shows the seating bowl behind home plate and down the first base line, the outline of the first base dugout, and the rightfield berm in the distance.  At the top of the seating area will be a wide concourse that will wrap around the stadium.

This photo taken from the pressbox, directly behind home plate, shows the seating bowl behind home plate and down the first base line, the outline of the first base dugout, and the rightfield berm in the distance. At the top of the seating area will be a wide concourse that will wrap around the stadium.

Monday night, the Normal Town Council got a first hand look at the excellent construction progress being made on the stadium that will be home to the Frontier League baseball team and Heartland Community College baseball, softball, and men’s and women’s soccer.

By the way, that big pile of dirt is actually a seating berm.

A worker lays sod on the left field seating berm Monday evening at the stadium under construction at the east end of the Heartland Community Colege campus on West Raab Road.

A worker lays sod on the left field seating berm Monday evening at the stadium under construction at the east end of the Heartland Community Colege campus on West Raab Road.

Perhaps anticipating Tuesday’s rains, crews were laying down sod on the twin berms which will provide outfield seating for baseball fans and spectators of other events held in the stadium.

On the other side of the berm, you get a true sense of what it will be like inside the stadium.

Inside, the concrete retaining wall has been poured and the dugouts are clearly visible down each line.   You also get a sense of the amount of permanent seating, about ten rows of seats between the press box and the box seats behind home plate and extending down the left field and right field lines to about the far side of each dugout. 

You also can see evidence of concession stands, luxury suites, and restrooms along a very wide concourse that will completely circle the stadium.

Club officials say that if all goes well the field turf will be installed around Nov. 1.

Already, 10 of the 12 suites have been sold, along with hundreds of season tickets.   

A-maizing progress, indeed.


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Filed under Baseball, Heartland Community College, Town Council

The votes are in, and it’s the Normal CornBelters

I could have broken the story on this blog last week and ended all of the speculation and anxiety.  

The reporter that’s left in me wanted to.   Instead, I sat on the news.

When I received the call last Thursday morning that the name I nominated won the “Name the Team” contest, I was stunned.    

Surely, I couldn’t have been the only one who nominated that name.    Right?    Wrong.  

Corn Belters was my favorite of the two names I entered in the contest.   It’s a  name that matches the geography around the ballpark as well as around the community, county, and state.    It’s a name that can easily be marketed in combination with Normal outside the area.   For me,  it conjures up good feelings of playing 17 years on the mostly rural diamonds of the Corn Valley baseball league and playing for the WJBC Cornybelters fastpitch softball team many years ago.

But it was a name that I quickly ditched for something new and different when I thought it was unpopular.

I voted for Corn Belters twice during the tainted first election.  The first time I voted, it was running at 6 percent support.  The second time I voted, the Corn Belters had zero percent.   Zip.    I was beginning to settle for the Nutz.

That’s when I knew something was wrong.    Fans of the Coal Bears correctly smelled a rat.  

I was pleased when the owners restarted the voting.    The new system worked very well.   Voters had to type in a code, discouraging computer aided or spam voting.   Yeah, it would have been nice to see instantly how your favorite name was faring in the poll, but not posting the results made for more drama.  

A Christian-based sports organization ran the election.   You can’t get anymore credible than that.

Instead of a million votes, we ended up with a few thousand.   That seemed about right.

I voted for the Camel Backs.   Turncoat.

At least my son voted for the Corn Belters.

And the Corn Belters came out on top,  by a pretty good margin as I understand it.

Last Thursday, when Normal Professional Baseball’s Steve Malliet asked me on the telephone if I was the Adam Nielsen he knew, I laughed.   The owners really didn’t know who nominated the names. 

When it sunk in I  immediately recognized that there was no way I could accept the prize.   Unless I wanted to be  — as someone aptly put it — “blogged to death.”  

No, I sure didn’t want that fate.   I might be slow sometimes, but I’m not Nutz.

I served on the committee that attracted professional baseball to Normal.   As a council member I voted to hire a consultant to speed up the process when time began to run out.   I voted to approve a one-time Town contribution of $1.5 million to for parking and infrastructure to make the stadium deal work.   I was an advocate for this project from the very beginning.    And there was absolutely no way that I would accept the prize.

Just to double check my thinking, I called my wife.   At Monday’s announcement, I joked that Dayna was my one person ethics committee.    I could have predicted how she reacted.   Without missing a beat,  Dayna shouted into the phone:  “There’s no way you can accept the prize.”   

I laughed again, relieved.  

That’s what happens when you have two former reporters in the family.   Reporters can always smell blood in the water.   I wasn’t going give myself the kind of self inflicted wound that gives people reasons to gripe.

Ultimately, the community voted to select the name.    And the community ought to benefit.

Dayna suggested Unity Center for the suite.   I thought it was an excellent idea.   Unity kids live in the neighborhood and probably won’t be going to many games.   This will give them the opportunity to experience a “luxury suite” at a professional baseball game.   I hope they have a great time and all get a souvenir from the game with the $100 gift certificate at the team shop.

My daughter suggested giving away some of the tickets to people who have cancer.   The Community Cancer Center is 10 years old.   There are many children of cancer patients who need a respite from the stress of serious illness in their families.

The Baby Fold was an easy one.   The Baby Fold does unbelievable work for children and families in our area. 

Big Brothers/Big Sisters — a no brainer.   Those tickets represent 24 fun nights out.   Special Olympics?   Same thing.      

The point of this is simple.  One of the beauties of baseball is that it is an accessible game.   Minor league baseball is  inexpensive, clean family entertainment.   I’m  confident the Normal CornBelters will run an outstanding, community-oriented business.   

There’s no question: Professional baseball in Normal will be a huge hit

I am thrilled to be a minor footnote in this story.


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Filed under Baseball, Uncategorized

Normal’s baseball team naming saga ends Monday, or will it?

At 4 p.m. inside the place best known for cheeseballs and beer, Normal Professional Baseball LLC will announce which nickname racked up the most votes in a contest that produced more than its fair share of water cooler talk.  IMG_1645

The winning nickname, logo, and marketing campaign will be announced at an event at Pub II on Monday afternoon.   The person who nominated the winning name will recieve a prize package that includes four season tickets for the 2010 season, as well as free rental of one of the suites for a game, and some team merchandise.

The team will begin play about a year from now in the yet-to-be-constructed $12 million multi-purpose facility on the east side of the Heartland Community College campus on Raab Road in Normal.

The announcement comes ten days after polls closed on the the second round of on-line voting that included locally nominated names like the Nutz and Coal Bears, as well the CornBelters, CamelBacks, and Fellers.   Team owners threw out the results from the first round of on-line voting and restarted the balloting when it became clear that hundreds of thousands of votes were being cast by computer programs. 

I am planning to be there for the announcement and for the cheeseballs.

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Chicago Tribune pokes fun at Normal contest, generates additional publicity

After a busy weekend (watching three soccer games, two baseball games, and a minor league baseball game), I literally passsed out  in my green chair Sunday night before I got a chance to pass along the story in the Chicago Tribune on our little contest we’ve got going down here.

Meanwhile, I haven’t changed my vote. 

As Harry Caray would say, "He had a cut!"  The Peoria Chiefs plied us with $5 tickets Saturday night under the guise of honoring the Parkside Junior High Cross Country team before the game.  Once in the ballpark, the Nielsen's spent at least another $40.  The rains came in the 7th inning.  Like most good minor league baseball fans, I can't recall who was winning at the time.

As Harry Caray would say, "He had a cut!" The Peoria Chiefs plied us with $5 tickets Saturday night under the guise of honoring the Parkside Junior High Cross Country team before the game. Once in the ballpark, the Nielsen's spent at least another $40. The rains came in the 7th inning. Like most good minor league baseball fans, I can't recall who was winning at the time.

I’m still solidly behind the CamelBacks.  Although, I helped my son vote for the CornBelters tonight.  He was torn between them and the Fellers.

I have to admit it’s a little disappointing that you go through all the rigamarole plugging in the code and filling out the application to vote and you don’t get to see your vote count.

I’ll live over it.

I was reminded how much fun we will have next year watching our team –whatever it’s named.   We attended Saturday night’s Peoria Chiefs game.   The team honored the state champion Parkside Junior High Cross-Country team and gave families discounted $5 tickets to the game.

Smart marketing move, because we spent a whole lot more in the seven innings before the rains came and the tarp covered the field.

During the process of attracting professional baseball to Normal, our ad-hoc committee learned that 62 percent of all fans who attend a minor league game can’t tell you who won.

They do end up entertained and a little lighter in the wallet.

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Just About Normal welcomes new baseball team name choices

I guess I’m not surprised by the fine print in the baseball team naming contest.   The owners’ decision is final.   

I’m glad they admitted it.    Credit the folks who questioned the integrity of the process for getting that fact out there.

If the owners like one of the names better than the one that wins the contest, they’ll choose it.  That’s an owner’s prerogative.  And I’ll go along with it as long as they reward one of the people who nominated the name that won the popular vote. 

That’s only fair.

When I voted this time, I filled out all of the information again but was disappointed not to see which team name was leading.   Probably a technical glitch.  I’ll give the webmaster the benefit of the doubt.

All that aside, I have a new favorite name.  The Normal CamelBacks.   The C-Backs. 

 "Let's go C-Backs!"  The Camelback bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is worthy of inspiring the nickname of the new Frontier League team that will begin play next year in a $12 million stadium on the Heartland Community College campus.

  • The Camelback bridge is one of Normal’s historic and best known landmarks on a busy stretch of the community’s favorite park — Constitution Trail. 
  • With its wooden planks, the bridge has a distinctive appearance and sound that takes us back to the days when the Illinois Central railroad cut through the heart of Bloomington-Normal.
  • The Camelback bridge is a source of community pride that spans portions of three centuries and multiple generations.
  • The Camelback bridge mounted its own comeback against those who wanted to replace it with a modern, non-descript (and probably safer) bridge.
  • It’s a survivor and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The bridge is one of the most photographed structures in Normal.  
  • It screams Normal and that’s why its image serves as the header for this blog.

As a nominator of the CornBelters, I would be happy with that name for the reasons I outlined in a previous post.   Today, for some reason the Normal CamelBacks struck me as a better name.

Tomorrow, who knows?

I’m just happy the Cardinals beat the Cubs.


Filed under Baseball, Uncategorized

Normal Baseball owners make the right call to restart the voting

The first time I voted for the name I nominated — Normal CornBelters — it had six percent of the vote.   

The second time I voted, it had zero percent, a big fat goose egg.  frontier-league-logo

The third time wasn’t much of a charm.  Still zero percent for the CornBelters.

That’s why I was not surprised to find out that 800,000 votes had been cast.  You don’t have to be a corporate IT expert or a computer hacker to figure out that some computer whiz found a way to defeat the system and vote early and often.   It’s been done before.

This has been a somewhat disappointing exercise in democracy, but it is definitely creating water cooler talk.  I have discussed the baseball team with more non-fans in the past week than I had the previous several months.   So, whatever snafu caused the voting to spiral out of control might turn out to be a good thing.

Kudos to  the owners for deciding to use an ID code so a computer program can’t take over the voting again.   I really wish we’d get a chance to see the uniforms and complete marketing packages before we vote, but maybe that’s asking too much.

I really find the conspiracy theorist website to be hilarious.  The T-shirt is absolutely nutty.   I love the fact this is making national news on-line.   The offbeat sports blog Deadspin picked up the story.   What would we do without online communties?

I readily admit CornBelters might not be the most creative name in the world, but I wasn’t the only one that nominated it.   I also nominated the Normal Route 66’ers.   That wouldn’t be a very tough logo to design, and it would probably sell a lot of caps and shirts in Europe.

I like the Teachers and the Fellows, two submissions from readers of this blog.  I also thought the Underwriters or the Actuaries might be a nice tip of the cap to the local financial services industry.

I’m still not sold on the Nutz, the Nighthawks, or the Colberts.   I mean the Coal Bears.   Although, I will admit it’s kinda funny and a great publicity stunt.

Regardless of how this turns out, I will be a season ticket holder and be wearing the ballcap all over town.

And when the games begin, I suspect I’ll be screaming “Let’s go, Nutz!”


Filed under Baseball, Uncategorized

Name that Team heads into the final days of voting

Nutz to the NightHawks!

Coal Bears?  Doesn’t he already have a NASA treadmill named after him?   Do we really want to feed his oversized ego?

And doesn’t a Coal Bear sound like its part of the Cub family?    And who really wants to be associated with the Cubs?   We do want this team to win a Frontier League title sometime in the next century, don’t we?   

 Naming our team the Coal Bears would be like giving them the shaft,  dooming them to losing seasons or even worse —  being swept every year in the first round of the playoffs.   

No, our beloved Normal team needs to be named after the ubiquitous crop that fattens livestock, sweetens beverages, and fuels our vehicles.

The Normal CornBelters.    There’s some rhythm there.  

With this name you’re saluting corn — a staple of the American diet — and a major part of what makes the local landscape so beautiful.    corn

The corn dogs, the hamburgers, and the nachos all contain corn.

The name has a double meaning.   Here in Normal we’re in the middle of the Corn Belt that stretches from Iowa through Illinois and into Indiana.

A belter is a good hitter.

Good hitters belting the ball around a ballpark located in the middle of the Corn Belt.    What a mental picture.

As the great Jack Buck would say: “That’s a winner!”

Name That Team: Vote Normal CornBelters.


Filed under Baseball