Bombers win kicks off baseball-filled summer

Photos by Tegan Johnston/The Herald
Kru Allen of Huntingburg performed as the Bomber's mascot "Casey" and high-fived Taylor Griepenstroh of Gentryville, 4, as she ran the bases after Thursday night's opening game at League Stadium in Huntingburg. The Dubois County Bombers beat Henderson 3-2. For more photos from the game, click here.

By ELLI SCHANK
newsintern@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — According to Mike Uebelhor, owner of the Dubois County Bombers, there’s a simple equation to a successful season: just give the crowd 50 percent good baseball and 50 percent good entertainment.

The baseball players who make Huntingburg’s historic League Stadium their home for the summer held up their end of the bargain Thursday night with a close 3-2 win over the Henderson Flash.

Off the field, Bombers stadium staff fills in the second half of the equation whether the crowd sees them or not.

The effort to start the season without a hitch is combined. With a mix of new additions and old traditions, the Dubois County Bombers are back.

For some League Stadium veterans, the season starting is a natural, sometimes stressful, ritual they gladly fall back in to.

Bob Ahlemeier, owner of the Old School Cafe on Fourth Street in Huntingburg and operator of the stadium concessions, is ready.

“We are ready and fired up, literally,” Ahlemeier said, pointing to the hot grills on the third base side.

Millie Craig of Jasper, 1, ate Skittles candy while watching the game from the arms of her father, Ryan, during Thursday night's opening game at League Stadium in Huntingburg.  For more photos from the game, click here.

Ahlemeier waits all year for the season to start. He, his family and his staff of around 20 summer workers grill various stadium foods, including the popular Bomber Burger. He estimates that, depending on crowd size, the concession stand sells 500 to 1,000 burgers a game. The volume of food cooked at every game doesn’t stress Ahlemeier out one bit.

“We wait all year for these (games),” Ahlemeier said. “I mean, this is the greatest job in the world. I’m grilling out for 1,000 of my best friends.”

The third base side is frequented by other stadium veterans as well. They’re the guys with the stick ponies and cowbells, and they call themselves the Third Base Deadbeats.

“We are here to back our Dubois County Bombers, encourage the players, correct the umpires’ bad calls and root against the enemy,” Wayne Porter said. Porter has been a Deadbeat since the stadium housed the Dragons more than a decade ago. He’s an original member, and came up with the name.

According to Porter, the Deadbeats started by bringing fishing nets to catch foul balls. Now the group has fishing nets, cowbells, stick ponies and various noisemakers. They even have a modified roster that includes nicknames for each individual Bomber player.

A full house turned out to watch Thursday night's opening game at League Stadium in Huntingburg. For more photos from the game, click here.

The Deadbeats work in tandem with another stadium staple, Casey the Clown. Casey will be depicted by Kru Allen, 18, of Holland, for the entire summer 2017 season. This is his second season working as Casey, but his first season where he will be the sole Casey on staff. There’s a little pressure being Casey, but nothing Allen can’t handle.

“I’m okay with being myself in front of people, and that’s all that being Casey really takes to be,” Allen said. Allen has participated in numerous theater productions at Southridge High School, so this is just another role for him.

Casey the Clown started his season of antics by pretending to take a nap on the field toward the beginning of the game. According to Allen, this is because the Casey character sleeps for the entire offseason. After waking from his false slumber, Casey woke up to entertain the crowd with dancing, cheering and turning hats around. Working with the Peaches to entertain and create positive experiences will be his job all season.

While stadium life changes ever so slightly from year to year, the action on the field is always new and exciting at the start of the season. The most notable change to the Bombers schedule is the addition of a new team, the Henderson Flash, to the Ohio Valley Summer Collegiate Baseball League. According to Bombers General Manager John Schneider, the addition should benefit the Bombers greatly by creating two, four-team divisions and shortening travel time.

Dubois County Bombers' Craig Shepherd of Jasper slid safely into home plate on a steal from third during Thursday night's opening game at League Stadium in Huntingburg. The Dubois County Bombers beat Henderson 3-2. For more photos from the game, click here.

The Flash were welcomed to the league Thursday night with a competitive game. For most of the game, the Bombers trailed by one run. The Dubois County team sealed the lead in the eighth inning with the help of shortstop and Jasper native Craig Shepherd, who stole home to tie the game.

“I told (coach) Paxson over there ‘What do you think if I steal home here?’” Shepherd said. “He said, ‘Just get a good jump and take it.’”

Shepherd, a former standout player at Jasper High School, just completed his freshman year at the University of Evansville. He’s played in front of big crowds, so the buzz of League Stadium is familiar to him.

“I don’t get nervous anymore, mostly (the noise) makes the atmosphere good,” Shepherd said. “It’s really cool, all the people come out.”

Shepherd is joined on the team by Forest Park graduate Eli Knust, who currently plays baseball for Vincennes University and also recently completed his freshman year.

With a win for the players and an energetic stadium atmosphere, the Bombers kept the balance between entertainment and baseball. And with a season that lasts until at least July, they’ll have plenty of chances to balance the equation again.

 




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