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New for 2016: Bloomington Bobcats

Midwest Collegiate LeagueThe Bloomington Bobcats, once an institution in summer-collegiate baseball, are being revived for the 2016 season and will compete in the Midwest Collegiate League, playing out of O’Neil Park.

The Bobcats have been on hiatus since 2002. The team, which has been a fixture off and on since the 1960s, will return to the diamond for the 2016 MCL season.

“The proximity of the teams and the caliber of baseball made the Midwest Collegiate League very appealing,” Bobcats General Manager Mike Brown said. “I know it’s fantastic baseball. (Commissioner) Don Popravak has been extremely helpful in getting us up and running and giving us a lot of ideas. This is a chance for kids from Bloomington-Normal to play really good baseball against kids from around the country.”

The Bobcats were originally run by legendary Illinois Wesleyan University baseball coach Jack Horenberger. Ben Alsene, who ran the team from 1982-2002, gave Brown his stamp of approval to bring the Bobcats back.

“That was very important as Ben was instrumental in hundreds of guys’ playing careers over 20 years,” Brown said.

The Bobcats featured players such as Bob Brenly, Buzz Capra, Doug Rader and Tim Stoddard from 1962-1979.  Former Bobcats player and coach Derek Johnson was recently hired as the Milwaukee Brewers pitching coach.

“There’s a lot of alumni here in town,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of tradition, and with Billy DuBois and the Lexington Snipes taking a summer off, the timing made sense.”

Brown, a former Bobcats player, is in his 20th year as an assistant coach at Illinois Wesleyan, his alma mater. Following his junior year of college, Brown signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization and spent three seasons playing minor league baseball.

The Bobcats have named Illinois State senior Joe Kelch their manager for the 2016 season. Kelch began his coaching career last summer with the Peoria Outlaws. Former Illinois State player Clint Stroud, who pitched in the Midwest Collegiate League with the Lexington Snipes, will serve as pitching coach.

“Our goal first and foremost is to give kids from the Bloomington-Normal who are playing collegiately a place to play so they can come back home for the summer,” Brown said. “We’ll fill in around those guys with players from other areas. I think we can put a fantastic product on the field with local talent.”

The 2016 MCL lineup also includes the Northwest Indiana Oilmen, Southland Vikings, DuPage County Hounds, Michigan City Lakers and Joliet Admirals.

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