Normal CornBelters first baseman Michael Nielsen admits “a lot of people I know mix where I’m from up with Bloomington.” The truth is Nielsen is from Bloomingdale, a suburb of Chicago about 20 minutes outside the Windy City. But the Quincy University student said he’s happy to be playing in the Prospect League again this season.

Fact is, the CornBelters is the third team Nielsen, a junior, has been part of in this league. His freshman season two years ago was spent with the Quincy Gems after his freshman summer and he suited up for the Hannibal Hoots last summer.

A graduate of Lake Park High School in Roselle, Ill., Nielsen said playing in the Prospect League is “pretty cool because you get to play in places like The Corn Crib. This place has the feel of a minor league field, stadium-wise, and you get to play in good parks in front of good crowds,” he explained. “That’s something you don’t always get when you play at school.”

Nielsen is majoring in Criminal Justice with a minor in Business Education. As a result, 21-year-old Nielsen explained, “I’d like to play baseball as long as possible, then after that have something to do with police.” Law enforcement has been part of his family, having had a grandfather who carried a gold shield as a Chicago Police Department detective. His grandfather wore or carried a badge for 35 years, he said. He also had an uncle who was with Chicago P.D., while another uncle of his is a Bloomington Fire Department lieutenant.

His being on three teams in three seasons started when his high school coach during his senior year knew then Quincy Gems head coach Rick Fraire. That got Nielsen his first college team experience. He “was 18 and had no idea I was playing with 22-year-olds, but it was the best decision I ever made to play there.”

After his sophomore school year, an opportunity to play in the Northwoods College League fell through, prompting Nielsen to rejoin the Prospect League playing for Hannibal. But his playing time there last season was short due to injury.

He had planned on playing for a Northwoods League team in Rockford this season, but one of his high school coaches was hired to coach in Rockford before he could play. The Northwoods League prohibits players who had been on a high school team coached by a Northwoods Coach from playing in the league again for that coach. That led to Nielsen finding the CornBelters.

“This league is great, and it’s kind of unique being the older guy in the locker room,” Nielsen said. “I think the cool part of me is getting to see those young guys and be able to give the younger guys some of the information I have learned along the way. You see yourself in the young kids, even though I’m not that much older. That’s the best part of this.”

“Mike is a good all-round player,” CornBelters Head Coach Rick White said of Nielsen. White said neither Quincy nor Hannibal had any room for Nielsen this year but recommended him as someone they thought Normal could benefit from having on the roster.

Corn Crib Hosting Prospect League All-Star Game Events July 22 & 23: On Monday, July 22, the CornBelters are hosting the 2019 Prospect League All-Star Game at the Corn Crib, an event being sponsored by State Farm Insurance, the Town of Normal and Ameren. The league’s All-Star Game will be played on Tuesday, July 23 at 6:30p.m.

All-Star activities begin Monday with an on-field meet and greet autograph session starting at 5:00 p.m. with the Home Run Derby following at 7:00 p.m. Former Chicago Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson and former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Rick Ankiel will captain the Home Run Derby and are joined by Cubs infielder Bill Madlock and former Cardinals Manager Whitey Herzog for the autograph session.

The Home Run Derby with the pregame autograph session takes place Monday and the Prospect League All-Star Game is Tuesday. Ticket packages are just $50 and include the Home Run Derby, with the pregame autograph session on July 22, as well as the All-Star Game on July 23. Individual tickets for each event can be purchased separately at $10 each but do not include participating in the autographed session.

Fans will be limited to one autograph per legend. Ticket packages may be purchased at the Corn Crib Box Office or by calling 309-454-2255.

Gates and doors will open at 4:30 on July 22 with on-field activities starting at 5 p.m. Event overflow parking will be available at Heartland Community College next to the Corn Crib Stadium.

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