BaseballNormal CornBelters second baseman Santiago Chirino wants to be “that guy” in the independent league team’s clubhouse. You know, the guy the team turns to for a smile and an encouraging word either out of the blue or when times get tough. The guy who is always upbeat and looking to bolster spirits when needed. The guy who is always looking to keep his teammates on the upswing when it could be needed the most – both during and away from game situations.

Living as a member of an independent baseball team means having guys with varying personalities but with one mindset as far as the game is concerned: To get to the league championship. Chirino said he wants to spend his time on the team not just helping make winning a reality, as do his teammates, but making sure the team stays upbeat while getting the job done.

“I try to talk to my teammates every day, and to be happy and have fun at winning games,” the 23-year-old explained. “If you’ve got one guy doing that every day, that helps the team.”

Chirino said his teammates appreciate the effort he puts in to try to give an injection of team spirit in what is essentially a business for the players of the Frontier League team. “I like trying to encourage my teammates because I love to play baseball and I want to play every day,” Chirino said. “I want us to make the playoffs, and I want to win the championship.”

Chirino said he took on the role of “that guy” after arriving here last season. In 2011 and 2012, Chirino played in a total of 218 games for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans of the Class A Carolina League. Last season, he had a .218 average, racking up 78 hits, 27 Runs Batted In, 27 runs scored and nine doubles. In 2010, he split time with the Class A Spokane Indians of the Northwest League and Arizona League Rangers. In 2009, he played in the Dominican Summer League. He is a career .256 hitter, with 306 hits, 152 runs scored, 124 RBIs and 44 doubles in 330 games. It was among the reasons he was named to play in the Frontier League All-Star Game earlier this month, an honor he said he appreciated receiving.

Chirino’s family, based in Punto Fijo, Venezuela, is upbeat, too, he said, because they are able to follow his progress through his Twitter account. He said he was honored to be named to the Frontier League All-Star Game Western Division squad for what was his first time at the event. The Frontier League All-Star Game was played earlier this month at GCS Park in Sauget, Ill., home of the Gateway Grizzlies.

Cornbelters 5th AnniversaryChirino said he has been on teams where the players had a mindset that was strictly business. Fun was not a word in the vocabularies of those players, he explained. But Chirino reminds baseball is a sport. “You have to have fun every day,” he said, being quick to point out about one of the main goals of the game. “You have to have fun at this game. If you don’t have fun, you shouldn’t play.”

Every day, Chirino explained, he talks to his teammates, encouraging them, and they reciprocate. “That’s what I try to do and they respond back,” he said. “That’s what I do every day, you know? I’m trying to be that guy.”

Chirino said he believes the attitude he has tried to spread throughout the clubhouse has helped the team while it pursues getting into the Frontier League playoffs for what would be the first time in franchise history.

“Right now, we’re playing together and we’re having fun,” Chirino said. “We’re enjoying the game.”

His mood is catching, even to the point that if Chirino isn’t trying to pump up his teammates for some reason, they notice that. When that happens, Chirino admits, “I’ll get players in the dugout coming up to me and asking, ‘hey, what’s up with you?’”

Given Chirino’s efforts to help his teammates stay on track with a positive attitude as they try to compete for a playoff spot, there is no doubt he is having an influence as the season progresses.

Outfielder Judah Earns 2nd “Player Of The Week” Honor This Season: For the second time this season, CornBelters Outfielder Sam Judah has earned “Player Of The Week” honors from the Frontier League. During the week of July 14, Judah went 5-for-11 at the plate for a .455 average, hitting two home runs, driving in seven runs during the week. Judah is batting .325 this season, with nine home runs and 49 Runs Batted In. Judah is playing for Normal during his fourth season as pro player.

This is the first season the Frontier League has named “Player Of The Week” honors along a “Pitcher Of The Week,”. The award winners are chosen by Pointstreak, the official statistics provider for The Frontier League and the Independent Professional Baseball Federation.

Frontier LeagueOutfielder Schwartz Named All-Star MVP: CornBelters outfielder Mike Schwartz earned Most Valuable Player honors from the league when the All-Star Game was over. Schwartz went 2-for-3 with two singles, a walk and a run in the Western Division’s 2-0 shutout win over the Eastern Division on July 16. “I was happy with Mike’s winning MVP,” Carey said. I am looking to have an interview with Schwartz in a future column this season.

One more item relating to the Frontier League All-Star Game: At one point in the star-studded contest, it looked like Normal was taking on the league nearly single-handed. Normal Manager Brooks Carey said that’s because during the All-Star Game’s fifth inning, six of the nine players on defense for the Western Division squad were from the CornBelters. “During that inning, our dugout received word that it looked like the game was Normal versus the rest of the league,” Carey quipped.

With the All-Star Game come and gone, it’s time to get on to the second half of the season and a push for the playoffs. Carey said the entire second half of the season will “come down to pitching. We’ve got offense. We’re going to score enough runs to win a lot more games that we lose offensively.”

At the mid-way point of the season last year, Normal was 27-22. They were 26-24 at the break this year. “We are in far better shape than we were at this point last year,” Carey said.

As you read this, the ‘Belters are in the midst of a 10-day, 9-game home stand. They have faced the Frontier Greys and Washington Wild Things earlier in the week and Lake Erie visits The Corn Crib Thursday through Saturday. The ‘Belters will be at River City Sunday through Tuesday before returning to The Corn Crib to face the Southern Illinois Miners and the Rockford Aviators during a six-game home stand beginning Wednesday, July 30.

This entry was posted on Saturday, July 19th, 2014 at 10:39 pm and is filed under Normal Cornbelters, The Normalite. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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