Mascot Magic: Casey and the Peaches

Rockford Peaches Lindsey LeClere of Huntingburg, left, and Shania Mundy of Santa Claus, right, chatted with Maylee Whitten of Haubstadt, 5, during the Bombers’ home game against the Paducah Chiefs on June 19. Whitten wore overalls to the game but later changed into a matching Peaches outfit her grandparents purchased at the gift shop. “It’s fun here,” LeClere said as to why she’s continued to work at League Stadium as a Rockford Peach. “The whole atmosphere is baseball and the kids are so fun to be around.”

Story by Kathleen Messmer
Photos by Brittney Lohmiller

As a crowd shuffles into League Stadium on a Thursday summer evening, friends and family chatter with excitement. Girls in pink skirts and red socks welcome fans with warm smiles and high-fives. Amongst the buzzing crowd, a small voice asks “Do the Bombers have a softball team?”

One might think so when they see the girls clad in their 1940s-style baseball uniforms, but no, there’s no softball team at League Stadium. There’s Casey and the Peaches.

Home of the Dubois County Bombers, a visit to League Stadium is a summer staple for the Dubois County community and visitors. From selling tickets and welcoming fans to waving goodbye as they leave the stadium, Casey and the Peaches keep everything in the stadium rolling, while also creating memories for fans.

Liam Terwiske of Dubois, 5, left, played rock-paper-scissors against Kru Allen of Holland, who is the Dubois County Bombers’ mascot Casey, on June 21. This is Kru’s third season being Casey. “This job has made me change my major,” the University of Southern Indiana sophomore said. “I was studying secondary education but I enjoyed working here with the kids so much that I changed it to elementary education.”

League Stadium was featured in the 1992 film “A League of Their Own” as the home of the Rockford Peaches, an all-female baseball team during World War II.

In 2012, the Bombers organization adapted the Peaches as the “stadium ambassadors.” Today, the Peaches, along with the vintage signage, scoreboard and atmosphere, carry on the legacy and tradition created by the film. The ladies can’t be missed in their 1940s-style, pink baseball uniforms, complete with tall, red socks and a red belt. Peaches co-manager Mary Uebelhor estimates that more than 50 girls have worn a Peaches uniform since the Peaches arrived at the venue six years ago.

There are 15 Peaches this Bombers season. Along with the girls in pink, the Bombers have their very own version of Max Patkin, the Clown Prince of Baseball: Casey. Casey, played by 19-year-old Kru Allen of Holland, truly embodies the vintage, fun-filled spirit of League Stadium.

“I get the chance to make people laugh and use my skill of acting out a really cool character,” Kru said, “I was in musicals in high school and it’s fun to carry on that skill.”

Casey also became a part of the Bombers experience in 2012, originally played by Corey Egler of Huntingburg, followed by Corey Oser of Huntingburg, and now Kru.

Like the Rockford Peaches from “A League of Their Own,” Liz Huebner of Jasper, center, and other Peaches practiced balancing books atop their heads at the Huntingburg Farmers Market on June 23. The four Peaches met with fans, competed in sack races and showed others how to dance to “Cotton Eye Joe” during the Meet a Peach event.

The name Casey comes from the famous poem by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, “Casey at Bat.” The poem reads, “There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place; There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face,” a perfect description of Kru and the character he portrays.

Sporting a 1940s-style vintage baseball uniform, Casey brings League Stadium’s “Every Night is a Throwback Night” slogan to life. After a long day of work in admissions at Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, Kru is grateful he has the ability to help people enjoy themselves at the game.

Six Peaches can be found in and around the stadium during each game. An hour before the game begins, the gates are open and the Peaches are ready to roll. There are two Peaches in the ticket booth, two collecting tickets and greeting fans at the gate and two passing out programs to fans inside the stadium. In addition to the stadium Peaches, there are three Peaches serving drinks at the stadium bars.   

“It’s largely about them having a smile on their face, being good with the kids and helping people,” Mary said.

Meanwhile, Casey is heard shouting, “Hey! Welcome to League Stadium!”

“I like to greet people and make them feel comfortable. Hospitality is No. 1,” Kru said.

Since their uniforms are without pockets, Peaches use their socks to hold the evening’s schedule and their eye black tubes.
Rockford Peach Miranda Miller of Santa Claus gave Cassidee Herbig of Jasper, 3, eye black during the Bombers’ home against the Fulton Railroaders on June 28. “I love baseball and the kids,” Miller said when asked why she came back to work as a Peach for a second season. “They look up to you.”

As fans continue to file into League Stadium, Casey strolls throughout the crowd challenging fans to rock-paper-scissors duels, the theme of the night’s game. Spotting a couple amidst the herd of people, Casey challenges the two to a rock-paper-scissors face-off to win a special Bombers tradition — the Best Seat In The House, sponsored by Best Home Furnishings. Casey escorts the couple to two blue, bottom-row seats behind home plate.

Other pregame rituals for Casey include distributing eye black and eye pink to kids and helping fans find their seats, which also entails him pointing out the backwards “9” on one of the posts indicating the section number.

“I don’t know why it’s like that, but I think it’s kind of funny,” Kru laughed.

Before the game begins, Peach Miranda Miller of Santa Claus, 19, escorts 13-year-old Cole Wirthwein of Huntingburg to the infield to sing the national anthem. Applause roars as Wirthwein concludes. The game commences.

With a burger in one hand and a beer in the other, fans are ready to kick off another theme of the night, Thirsty Thursday. Bartender Peaches, Taylor Hopf of Kyana, 21, and Emily Weisman of Huntingburg, 22,  meet fans and serve cold beer at reduced prices. This is their second season as  Peaches. A stadium Peach last year, Taylor now enjoys meeting fans as a bartender Peach. “It’s never boring,” she said.

The sound of wooden bats cracking and fans cheering flood the stadium as the Bombers creep their way into the second inning.

Bombers announcer Scott Sollman’s voice booms over the microphone, “It’s time to bring out our lovable mascot, our clown prince, our one and only Casey!”

“Orange Blossom Special” rings through the air as Casey dashes throughout the stadium.

“I don’t know why, but for some reason he always wants everyone to look like him,” Sollman jokes as Casey turns everyone’s baseball caps backwards, just as his is. Hurdling bleachers and leaping row to row, he makes his way to challenge kids in rock-paper-scissors. With giggles and gleaming eyes, the kids can’t help but be transfixed by Casey’s silliness.

 Casey led fans in the “Y.M.C.A.” during the Bombers’ home game against the Paducah Chiefs on June 19.

“Kids are my best audience,” Kru said. “I love the so-called ‘magic’ of a mascot. Kids whole-heartedly believe that I’m not Kru Allen, but Casey; they think that I live at the stadium. My aunt used to take me to Reds games, and I fell in love with their mascot. Because I can relate to them (kids) in this way, I try to keep that magic alive and never break character.”

Originally majoring in secondary education at the University of Southern Indiana, Kru switched his major to elementary education because of his love for interacting with the kids at League Stadium. He’s now a sophomore at the school.

With the thrilling arrival of Casey, the fun is just getting started.

Peaches Miranda and Haley Barnett of Huntingburg, 20, browse the crowd for eager fans to participate in goofy games on the baseball diamond. Between the third and fourth inning, musical chairs kicks off a variety of games hosted by the Peaches between each inning. Ensuring fun for all, the Peaches set up games designed for both children and adults, including tug of war and dizzy bat spin.

Peach Cami Gerber of Jasper, 20, admits it can sometimes be difficult to get volunteers.

Despite this challenge, the Peaches agree that hosting the games and activities are a lot of fun. “They make the baseball games more exciting and go faster because you’re doing something every inning,” Cami said.

Carol Cooper of Jasper, left, and Connie Nass of Huntingburg chatted with Casey on June 19.

As the Bombers battle into the fourth and fifth innings, Casey continues to battle in rock-paper-scissors. Sauntering throughout the stadium, he stops to challenge fans young and old in the classic game.

After shutting down the ticket booth, the four Peaches who were outside the stadium now join the commotion inside.

Suddenly a “mini-Peach” approaches Miranda.

“I love your outfit!” Miranda says to her. Sweetly, she bends down to the young girl in the Rockford Peaches uniform and gently applies both eye black and eye pink to her cheek bones.

For 20-year-old Sabrina Becher of Ferdinand, making kids smile with the eye black is one of her favorite parts of being a Peach.

Miranda added: “I like how they make you feel like you’re famous, but you’re not. It’s like the best thing ever. They even ask for your autograph.”

Twenty-two-year-old Peach Lindsey LeClere of Huntingburg said: “The little ones are so cute. They will come up to you and say, ‘Can we sit with you?’ or ‘Can we watch the game with you?’ They like to hold your hand and walk around with you.”

The middle of the fifth inning rolls around and that can only mean one thing: “Cotton Eye Joe.”

Casey and the Peaches make their way to the middle of the stadium behind home plate. Stomping their feet and clapping their hands, the crowd joins them in the high-energy line dance.

Miranda and Haley agree the dance is one of their favorite Bombers game activities.

“All of the little kids come dance with us and they get into it,” Haley said. “The adults also like to stand up and join. It gets everyone up and moving.”

Rockford Peaches Cami Gerber of Jasper, left, and Sabrina Becher of Ferdinand led fans in the “Y.M.C.A” during the Bombers’ home game against the Fulton Railroaders June 28.

As the ballgame progresses, Casey and the Peaches continue to entertain the crowd. They join the fans in singing the baseball classic, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” followed by the “Y.M.C.A.”

Though the Bombers fall short of a victory that night in mid-June, spirits remain high in League Stadium. After all, there is no crying in baseball.

Young fans join Casey and the Peaches on the field to run the bases, a post-game tradition.

The Bombers organization is much more than baseball, it’s a community, a family.

Casey, the Peaches and the Bombers players also are given opportunities to interact with the community outside of the baseball games. Several organizations such as the Tri-County YMCA, the Community CHEW and the Huntingburg Farmers Market give the young adults volunteer opportunities.

Peach Joyce Lawrence of Huntingburg, 24, is grateful for the camaraderie the Bombers organization provides both within itself and the community.

“Being a part of this organization has provided me with lifelong friendships that have supported me through everything,” she said. “The love of baseball has brought together such a unique group of people that support each other and have fun doing it.”

Fitting League Stadium and the Bombers organization so well, Joyce’s favorite quote from “A League of Their Own” is from Tom Hanks’ character, Jimmy Dugan: “Baseball is what gets inside you. It’s what lights you up, you can’t deny that.”

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