Thursday, July 16, 2020

Throwback Thursday - Summer of 1994

I don't believe I've ever done a Throwback Thursday post on the blog. But let's give this a try.

My parents have been sorting and re-organizing their basement and in the process have unearthed some things they thought I'd like to have.

Here we have a program from the 1994 McDonald's All-Star Classic, which was held at the old Meinen Field in Peoria. Meinen Field, at Pete Vonachen Stadium, was home to the Peoria Chiefs, the Class A affiliate of the Cubs at the time. This was a pretty cool experience for any prep ball player.
  I attended Peoria Central High School, which is not known for being a baseball juggernaut, but we had a decent enough senior and junior bats above me to make us competitive, but they were short on arms. Yep, I was "called up" as a sophomore to pitch for the varsity that year. My numbers, which aren't great, are at the bottom of the page below. The fact I had a 3-3 record with a 5.61 ERA tells you all you need to know the hitters in the conference. They could rake and many of them would play college ball and a couple were even drafted out of high school.
 So, my high school coach put my name up for consideration for the AA Underclass all-star game and the other coaches in the area thought enough of me as a sophomore to place me on the roster.
 Here's the box score from the local paper the next day. I entered the 8th inning with the score tied 6 to 6. As my mom's handwriting notes above, I gave up four hits and two runs in the 8th and quickly found ourselves down 8 to 6. My teammates picked me up in the 9th and plated five runs. I gave up two more hits in the bottom of the 9th inning, but managed to put up a goose egg on the scoreboard. How about that?!? I got the win! Looking at the rosters and the box score sure does bring back a lot of memories.

Fun Fact: I have helped coach the last four McDonald's All-Star games in Peoria. I'd much rather be playing on the field, but it's pretty cool being in the dugout and in the coaching boxes on a professional field.

Later during the same summer I played for our local American Legion team, Peoria Post #2. American Legion teams are quickly dying out, but back then they were the only travel all-star teams for high school players.
We hosted a regional tournament at Meinen Field, within the friendly confines of Pete Vonachen Stadium. The teams in the tournament were the best in their respective states, which included Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. We, Peoria Post #2, were the host team, and filled out the bracket as the eighth team. Honestly, we really didn't deserve to be there as a sub-0.500 team.

We were destined to make a quick exit in the tournament, and even though I was a "pitcher only" and dealing with an arm injury I found my way into a blowout game. My coaches thought I would like the experience of playing in the tournament and on the Peoria Chiefs' field. Part of me approved of their decision, but the other part of me was scared silly. I was inserted into right field, which I never played, and I remember thinking, "Please, don't hit the ball to me!"

I actually had a ground ball make it out to right field and I remember under-handing the ball into the second baseman, because I wasn't supposed to be throwing.
I'm in the back row, fourth from the left.
Later that game I actually came to bat. I turned out to be a fairly decent high school hitter during my junior and senior years, but as a sophomore, who was a "pitcher only," I was more or less freaking out. I went up there just trying to make contact and I took an outside fastball the other way to right field for a line drive base hit! Yep, I batted a thousand in the tournament. (Probably the only hitter to do so!) Honestly, I think that hit, my first above the sophomore level, boosted my confidence more than anything I did on the mound that summer.


  1. Man it must have been cool to be part of a regional all-star team, and it's very impressive that you made the team as a sophomore! Thanks for sharing your American Legion stories. I hope you'll make Throwback Thursday a regular series on your blog.

  2. You were a high schooler in 1994? Man, I would've been covering you if you were in my area. I was already 4 years into a job (and a marriage).

  3. Very nice. While I never played ball at any level (I tried out one summer but left after the first practice), I agree with you about Legion leagues dying out. The American Legion in general tends to be dying out, and its a shame.

  4. Very cool stuff. Batting a thousand. Grabbing the win. Can't wait to hear your junior and senior year stories.