By Steve Robinson | July 30, 2017 - 10:10 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Steve RobinsonSomeone in charge gave the scoreboard operator at The Corn Crib the night off on Saturday, July 29. If the scoreboard operator was lucky enough, that person should have showed up at the ballpark anyway for the annual “Legends” game. Proceeds from the contest went to benefit The Miracle League of Central Illinois.

Bill Wright, the late owner of Uncle Bill’s Self Storage in Normal, helped throw out the first pitch, as it were, to making sure the Twin Cities would have a league where a child, regardless of their disabilities, could play the grand old game just as other children do. Each player in the Miracle League gets a “buddy” to help them bat and field and run bases. That’s part of how the Miracle League works. Part of a nationwide organization, Miracle League of Central Illinois (MLCI) has been playing its seventh season in 2017. Wright had a hand in getting the league off the ground and passed away in 2012.

The two sides for the Legends game were divided by the colors of the event’s logo, green and yellow. A total of 4,260 fans came out to see and cheer for guys who used to suit up for Major League Baseball. They were joined by local guys lucky enough to share a dugout with them.

The “Green” team, captained by former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Mitch “The Wild Thing” Williams, consisted of Judge William Yoder, State Rep. Dan Brady, State Sen. Rodney Davis, WGLT FM General Manager R. C. McBride, Former Cubs/Giants/Phillies alum Mike Fontenot, Former Chicago Cubs center fielder Bob Dernier, former St. Louis Cards pitcher Rick Ankiel, former Oakland A’s outfielder Jose Canseco, former Chicago Bears Hall Of Famer Dan Hampton, and The Pantagraph’s Randy Reinhardt.

The “Yellow” team, captained by Dustin Crone, consisted of this roster including the following players: Former Atlanta Falcons defensive back Brian Jordan, former Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano, former Cardinals pitcher Jason Isringhausen, Former Chicago Bears tackle Steve McMichael, and former WJBC Radio Reporters Adam Nielsen and Alan Sender.

The evening had a wild beginning as Canseco and Ankiel took part in a home run contest prior to the game. Softballs flew out of The Corn Crib as the two former superstars engaged in a little friendly competition which everybody marveled at.

I’d love to tell you who won the Legends Game itself, but since the scoreboard wasn’t turned on and like many of the fans, I got caught up in the camaraderie and the fun the evening produced, I think it would be safe to say the big winners on the night was The Miracle League of Central Illinois and its players and volunteers. Other winners on the night were the fans who came out to cheer and marvel at the guys who played in the majors and still appear to have what it takes, and their local teammates who joined in on the fun. The Miracle League players have a field of very own right behind The Corn Crib and play their games on Sunday afternoons in the spring and summer.

Kids Playing Leap Frog And Chicago 6 Band: After the game, fans waited for a concert by the Chicago 6 Band fronted by Hampton and McMichael. They entertained the crowd that stayed after the game with songs from Elvis and Pink Floyd, among others. Between tunes (and at times after altering tunes to mention their previous occupation), the band members reminisced and took some semi-friendly jabs at their former coach, the legendary Mike Ditka.

They started out by playing to a crowd that sat in the stands while the stage was set in deep center field. But as the concert continued, the fans, roughly 300 or so, many wearing Cubs gear and World Series Cubs gear, took to the field to get a closer look and interact with their favorite players.

Prior to the concert, kids took to the field and played catch or other games as they and their parents waited for the concert to start. Among those kids were a couple sets of three or four kids playing leap frog. The first set of kids, we thought, was only going to go from home plate to first base. But they showed they had a little more energy and determination than it turned out managing to round the bases until they reached third. That’s when they appeared to run out of gas. With the first set of kids, four kids played, and one child would abandon the game for a short time and pick it up again before the whole crew stopped.

A second set of three kids weren’t as ambitious as they started from home plate to leap frog as far as they could go. The second group barely made it to first base. But while both sets played, they had our group of fans in the stands down the first base line smiling.

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