NORMAL – Prospect League newcomers Normal CornBelters may have been the hosts for the league’s annual All-Star Game July 23, but it was the guests from teams representing the league’s Western Division who stole the show, beating the Eastern Division squad, 11-2, in front of roughly 750 fans.

Cody Orr of the Chillicothe Paints opened the contest with a triple and scored on a single by Max Jung-Goldberg of the Danville Dans, putting the visiting Eastern squad in front, 1-0 in the first inning. The Western Division countered in the bottom half of the inning, when Tyler Clark-Chiapparelli of the Quincy Gems singled with one out, scoring Brendan Ryan of the Springfield Sliders, tying the game, 1-1.

Matt Rubayo of the West Virginia Miners doubled to get the second inning started for the East and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jacob Mulcahy of the Terre Haute Rex, putting the East up, 2-1. Chillicothe’s Gavin Homer walked followed by Orr hitting a ground-rule double, putting runners at second and third with one out. A single by Jung-Goldberg completed the action to score Homer and Orr, advancing the Eastern Division’s lead, 4-1. The Western Division closed in during their half of the inning, cutting the East’s lead, 4-2, thanks to a leadoff walk from league Home Run Contest champ Canyon McWilliams of the Normal CornBelters. From there, McWilliams stole second and scored thanks to a single from DuPage Pistol Shrimp’s Jack Surin.

But McWilliams’ run proved to be the last of the offense the Western Division would produce. With two outs in the top of the third, Rubayo smacked a double to left field and stole third before scored on a West Division fielding error, pushing the East Division’s lead, 5-2.

A one-hit single by Orr starting the fourth inning followed by Jung-Goldberg singling was followed by a three-run home run by Chris Monroe of the Lafayette Aviators, adding to the Eastern Division’s advantage, 8-2. The East would tack on two more runs in the fifth inning courtesy of Mitchell Garrity of the Terre Haute Rex, who singled home Danville Dans’ Andrew Meggs, giving the Eastern Division a 10-2 lead. Meggs reached base on a ground-rule double. The Eastern Division’s scoring was completed when Stephen Cullen from the Champion City Kings drove a solo homer out of the park in the top of the ninth inning, finishing the scoring with the East in front 11-2.

Chillicothe’s Zach Kendall was the contest’s winning pitcher.

CornBelters Front Office Pleased With Overall Event Outcome: Todd Kunze, CornBelters general manager, said both the game and the Home Run Derby which preceded it on Monday were well attended. “We did pretty well because, well, people have jobs and kids, and it’s a transition year for the team with new ownership and new league,” he reminded. “We had a fantastic night Tuesday night for the All Star event. Weather was fantastic, and for as hot as it was, we couldn’t have asked for as well as it was. I thought we did really, really well and had a great showing for the players who came out “

Kunze said the event “was an exciting experience for those young men and we were just excited to host the game in our first year in the league.” Kunze finished by saying the team is appreciative of the support of the Prospect League and Commissioner Dennis Bastien and his wife and Deputy Commissioner Lisa Bastien for “supporting our efforts for having the game here and the opportunity it gave us.”

The Tim Jankovich Connection: In his office, Kunze has a bar graph with an arrow moving upward – something to remind him which direction he wants to see the team move toward. He said the idea for that graph came from his friend, and former Illinois State University Men’s Basketball Coach Tim Jankovich.

Manager Rick White Admits To A “Frustrating Summer”: In assessing how the first version of the Prospect League CornBelters turned out, Manager Rick White said, “I think we played way below what we were capable of playing like way below.” Being 10 games below .500 was a disappointment for him, he said, adding that considering the talent the team assembled, he believed the team at this point in the year should have been 10 game above .500.

“It’s been a frustrating summer,” White admitted, adding, “We weren’t able to get everything clicking at the right time. And then, when we get what we think is the right lineup in, we lose a player here, we lose a player there, or pitching doesn’t perform, or hitting doesn’t hit when pitching is good.” He described what he experienced as “a lot of head banging against the wall all summer long.”

In preparation for the 2020 season, White said, “We’re only going to offer a few guys contracts, if they want to come back. That’s out of the whole 30-plus we’ve had here.” At the most, White said, only five players from this year would be offered contracts for next season, he said. He said when he was hired meant he worked on getting players starting in January. Now that he has a season under his belt, he said, he can work sooner to evaluate and sign players.

White said he had heard that during the All-Star Break, a total of 90 players league-wide exited teams for various reasons. He said those reasons could range from getting ready for the fall semester at their respective colleges to just giving themselves a break between the league season and going back to college.

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