Hal Morris to headline Hot Stove Banquet on Jan. 24th

IMG_7433Big news!  The keynote speaker for the Illinois Baseball Hot Stove Banquet has been officially announced. 

The Illinois Baseball team and the Fighting Illini Dugout Club will have former MLB player Hal Morris as the main speaker.  Morris, who played most of his 13-year career with the Cincinnati Reds, had a lifetime .304 batting average and batted a career high .335 in 1994. 

There’s more to Hal Morris than a good baseball player though.  After his playing time was up in 2000, Morris went back to school and earned an Masters in Business Administration from Stanford University.  He put his degree to good work in private investing before getting back into the business of baseball.  He is now Director of Professional Scouting for the Los Angeles Angels.

Hal Morris is a Big Ten product, by the way.  He played for the University of Michigan and was drafted in 1986.

The Hot Stove Banquet is scheduled for January 24th, 2015 at 5pm.  Dinner will be served at 6pm.  It will take place at the iHotel in Champaign, Illinois.  Individual tickets can be ordered for $50.  More pricing plans are available as well

Those interested in attending should fill out the registration form on the FightingIllini.com website. 

For those who haven’t been to a Hot Stove Banquet yet, I highly recommend it.  It is traditionally seen as the kickoff off the Illinois Baseball season but there is plenty of time for retrospection as well. I went for the first time this past January and had a blast.  

Hope to see you there!


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D-R trip: Illini players finish with five wins (and probably a whole lot more)

The players have pretty much wrapped up their trip to the Dominican Republic.  They played their last game yesterday.  And while wins, losses and stats are not the important thing in the grand picture, the Illini have done well.  They won five, lost two and tied once. 

What is important though is that our players who are acting as representatives of the University of Illinois, have given the people of the Dominican Republic a glimpse of who we are as a people while at the same time learning a thing or two about the priorities of those in a different culture.  This was made evident with the players’ trip of the Escuela Hogar Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos orphanage after a pair of split squad games on Tuesday.  Looking at the photos, I can both the kids of orphanage and our boys had a lot of fun.  The players also had a visit with US Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Wally Brewster on the same day. 

But this is a baseball blog and I just can’t help but look at stats.  I kept reading Pat McInerney’s name in the highlights every day.  Sure enough, if you look at the final stats, it bears out.  In five games, Pat “the Bat” (seriously, I’m trying to get that nickname to stick), went 6 for 17 with 2 homeruns (the only homers hit by an Illini for the week).  Both Ropers did well at the plate, too.  Ryne Roper batted .375 and Reid Roper batted .313 with four runs scored.

Overall though, it was a pitchers’ week.  The Dominican teams kept the Illini to a .219 batting average.  Our pitchers did well with a 2.65 team ERA.  The coaches gave all the hurlers an equal chance and they performed well. 

The Illinois baseball players will certainly come back to the US will a different outlook.  Fortunately for us, there was great coverage of the week.  You can find a good summary of the week here at FightingIllini.com with photos, videos and links to box scores. 

Something tells me that those who attend the upcoming Illinois Baseball Hot Stove Banquet will hear some good stories about their trip.  I attended the banquet last year when the idea of the players and coaches taking the trip to the D-R was first announced.  It would only make sense that this coming banquet would wind down with a summarization of the trip. 

Details of the upcoming Hot Stove Banquet has not been officially announced but I’ve heard from a reliable source that it will take place on January 24, 2015.  Mark your calendars!  More details on the banquet when they become available.

Welcome home, guys!!


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DR trip: Warm weather suiting the Fighting Illini bats

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photo via Twitter @IlliniBaseball

The Illinois Baseball team has been in the Dominican Republic for two days and they have gotten three games in already.  They certainly have held their own winning all three.  Pat “The Bat” McInerney has a lot to do with their success as he’s homered twice in as many days.  He’s definitely making his case for some playing time in 2015 to Coach Hartleb.

Both wins on Monday were against the Yankees… the Dominican Instructional League Yankees, that is. 

Game 1 Box Score

Game 2 Box Score

If you want to see some of the photos from the DR trip, FightingIllini.com has a gallery posted.  The program is doing a great job keeping us all posted on their trip via the website but for more frequent updates, definitely check out their Twitter feed @IlliniBaseball.

Bright and early on Tuesday there will be two split squad games against the Astros DIL team.  Note that the DR games have been added to 2014-2015 schedule web page at FightingIllini.com. 

Good luck Illini!


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Illini players looking forward to a warm Thanksgiving

I can’t help but feel a little envious of the Illinois baseball players and coaches.  They are going on a trip of a lifetime next week when they travel to the Dominican Republic.  Not only will they get to see some of the sights but they will also play eight exhibition baseball games in the span of five days. 

FightingIllini.com has a write-up on their upcoming trip.  This is the team’s planned itinerary:

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC TRIP ITINERARY

Saturday, Nov. 22
Depart from Champaign
Arrive in Boca Chica, D.R.

Sunday, Nov. 23
Game vs. Dominican Air Force Team

Monday, Nov. 24
Split-squad game vs. New York Yankees DIL Team

Tuesday, Nov. 25
Split-squad game vs. Houston Astros DIL Team
Visit orphanage in San Pedro

Wednesday, Nov. 26
OFF DAY – Catamaran Trip to Isla Saona

Thursday, Nov. 27
Game vs. Tigres del Licey Reserve Squad of the Dominican Winter League

Friday, Nov. 28
Split-squad games vs. Baltimore Orioles/Chicago White Sox DIL Team
Guided tour of Colonial Zone
Watch Dominican Winter League game

Saturday, Nov. 29
Depart Boca Chica, D.R.
Return to Champaign

Coach Hartleb was happy with the response of the local community to the baseball glove drive. 

"We have had a tremendous outpouring of support of new and used baseball gloves from the Champaign-Urbana community and surrounding areas.  We will be able to give those gloves to children who have very little in the Dominican. It will be heartwarming to hand those out during the week of Thanksgiving. I can’t thank the people of this area enough for helping make a child’s life a little brighter and give them a reason to smile."

Rumor has it that team Sports Information Director Matt Wille will be going along as well to provide written commentary and summaries on everything happening for those of us at home. 

Safe travels to the team and coaches.  We’ll be thinking of you while we’re braving the freezing temps. 


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Mark your calendar: Illinois Baseball announces 2015 schedule

IMG_8668Coach Dan Hartleb and the Illini Baseball program announced the 2015 Illinois Baseball schedule on Wednesday.  With the new, expanded Big Ten conference we have a very interesting lineup of games for the upcoming year.

Here’s a link to the 2015 schedule on FightingIllini.com

The season starts on February 15th at the Lamar University’s Cardinal Classic where the Illini will be facing both Lamar and New Mexico State.  After three weeks of action down south, the Illini will head north on March 10th.  They will then host a nine-game home stand of non-conference teams which will include a three-game set with the Southern Illinois Salukis. 

The Big Ten opener will be on March 27th in East Lansing against the Spartans of Michigan State.  That begins an eight-game road streak including conference opponents Northwestern,  The Illini can get a little comfortable because nine of their next ten games are at home with conference series against Purdue and Indiana.

After two away series versus Penn State and Ohio State broken up by another midweek Southern Illini game down in Carbondale, the Illini get to finish up at home.  On May 8th, they’ll take on new conference member Rutgers.  For the last weekend of the year, they’ll finish with Darin Erstad’s tough Nebraska Cornhuskers

The Big Ten Baseball Tournament scheduled for Target Field in Minneapolis, will be on May 20, 2015. 

In his announcement, Coach Hartleb is pushing the competitive angle:  . 

"We have a very competitive 2015 schedule that will help us contend for an NCAA berth with a strong RPI.  This is one of the stronger schedules we have had with 12 games against teams that were NCAA qualifiers from last season. There is a lot of variety, so we will see many different styles throughout the season. We will test our pitching staff early with an opening weekend with four games and our third weekend with five games. We will be able to develop our starting staff and give them innings against quality teams."

Worthy of note, the Illinois baseball team will be playing in eight exhibition games in their trip to the Dominican Republic next week.  No, they won’t officially count in any capacity but as I see it, the live practice against other teams will help. 


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Cast your vote for former Illini Tanner Roark

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Looks like Tanner Roark is on the MLB GIBBY ballot for Breakout Pitcher of 2014.  The best part is that you can do your part and cast your vote for the former Illini hurler.

After a very limited 2013 season, Roark went 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA for the Washington Nationals helping them to the postseason.  Roark was drafted in 2008 by the Texas Rangers and made his Major League debut in 2013. 


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Big Ten Baseball Tournament to return to Omaha in 2016 and 2018

big10-11-nav-logoThe Big Ten Conference has been busy arranging venues for future Big Ten Baseball Tournaments, it seems.  With record breaking crowds at this year’s tournament at the TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, the conference has decided to return in two years and locked up dates for the 2016 and 2018 tournaments.  TD Ameritrade is the home of the NCAA Division I College World Series. The official dates are May 18-22, 2016 and May 23-27, 2018.

Big Ten Commissioner James Delaney gave the official word:

"We are very excited to return to TD Ameritrade Park for the 2016 and 2018 Big Ten Baseball Tournaments.  It was amazing to see so many passionate fans at the Big Ten Baseball Tournament this past May, and we look forward to coming back to Omaha." 

The 2015 Big Ten Baseball Tournament will take place at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins.  Target Field was home of the 2013 conference tournament.   No word yet if there is a venue set for the 2017 tourney though there is certainly time to get that settled. 

On a related side note, TD Ameritrade Park is home to the Creighton Blue Jays.  Creighton University just happened to be the last stop for Illinois’ new assistant coach Spencer Allen.  He served as associate coach and recruiting coordinator for the BlueJays. 


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Prepping for DR: Illini baseball practice in November

 

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Catcher Kelly Norris-Jones awaits the cutoff throw

Baseball in November at Illinois Field.  There’s a first for everything.  The Illini were at practice today getting warmed up for their trip to the Dominican Republic.  They’ll be leaving for a week on November 22nd. 

For those interested, there is a drive to collect baseball gloves for youth in the Dominican Republic.  According to FightingIllini.com, baseball gloves can be dropped off at any This Is It furniture store location. 

Coach Dan Hartleb says:

"The kids in the Dominican Republic will greatly appreciate the generosity of the Champaign community.  Most of the kids in the Dominican live in shacks with dirt floors and don’t have the means to purchase a glove. A glove will be like Christmas Day for them. Our hope is to hand out the gloves to kids at our games and take them to the orphanage we will visit for those kids to use as well."

Hartleb should know.  He spent some time down in the Dominican Republic last year and wrote about it extensively on the FightingIllini.com website.  Here is the recap from last year. 

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Chilly John Santas of the Dugout Club regales Ryan Haff with another Illini tale

This year, all the players get to go thanks in part to Coach Hartleb’s hard work as well as financial support from the Illini Dugout Club.  The team has at least eight games scheduled with Dominican Summer League teams. 

Good luck in your travels, team and thanks for one last glimse of Illini Baseball before the year is out!


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Mamlic honored for incredible season with Lombard

Andrew MamlicThe 2014 Wisconsin State League awards are out and behold, an Illini pitcher is among the honorees!  Andrew Mamlic who played for the Lombard Orioles in the summer, was named yesterday as a recipient of the WSL award. 

Mamlic had a fantastic year for the Orioles, leading the Lombard Orioles in pretty much every meaningful category.  He was 8-0 with a miniscule 1.88 ERA.  He also led the team in strikeouts, starts, innings pitched and of course, winning percentage. 

Congratulations, Andrew!  Looking forward to having you back in the spring!


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Big Ten Records Book now updated

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Drasen Johnson gets listed in the Records Book for leading the Big Ten in strikeouts in 2014

Admittedly, there isn’t a lot that goes on news-wise with Big Ten baseball in between the Orange and Blue World Series in the Fall and the Hot Stove Banquet in January.  This year is a bit different with the team’s November incredible trip to the Dominican Republic (more on that soon). 

However, one thing to break the monotony of the off-season for the fans is the conference’s annual release of the Big Ten Records Book.  For hard core Big Ten sports geeks, it’s a lot of fun, full of history and information to digest.  All Big Ten sports are represented including of course, Baseball. 

What does the Records Book include for Big Ten Baseball fans?  A lot.  That includes:

  • A wrap-up of the 2014 season
  • Standings for every year (beginning 1896)
  • Career, yearly, and game records for both conference and non-conference games
  • Big Ten Tournament results and Tournament records
  • Award and All-conference selections

Again, it’s chock-full of fun info.  And yes, this guy is still there:

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You can find the Big Ten Records Book online at the Big Ten website

Here is the link to the Baseball section.


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