As summer collegiate baseball leagues around the country suspend operations due to COVID-19, the Normal CornBelters plan to push forward with the creation of their own league.

The CornBelters announced the creation of the Kernels League last week via the league’ Twitter page after it was announced that the league they played in last season, the Prospect League, will not be having a season. Taking place at the CornBelters’ home field, the Corn Crib, the Kernels League will be a four-team league made up of the Bobcats, CornBelters, Gems and Hoots.

“Before the news that the league was canceled was available to the public, one of our owners, Matt Stembridge, who is president of operations for us here in Normal, came up with this idea towards the end of May,” CornBelters Director of Ticket Sales Matt Durkin said.

“We instantly fell in love with it and have been running full throttle with the Kernels League ever since.”

The league begins on July 1 and will run until Aug. 9 with teams playing in a round-robin style season with all teams playing on the same day in a doubleheader format. The first game will begin at 5:30 p.m. with the second game coming right after.

Players will come from around the central Illinois area. This allows the league to avoid finding host families to house players like summer leagues normally rely on.

While rosters have not been announced yet, Durkin says they should be released for all four teams either later this week or early next week.

Durkin noted the advantages of having players from around the area.

“Playing wise you are going to get extremely competitive baseball. Our rosters are made up of the best collegiate talent in the area, talking college players from the likes of Bloomington-Normal, Peoria and Springfield to help shape our four teams,” Durkin said.

“That does not mean that they play college ball here necessarily, but all are baseball players that call central Illinois home in some capacity. Whether it is their hometown or where they spend a good chunk of the school year.”

Once play begins, regulations will be in place for fans and workers.

While the league is still waiting for official word about whether fans will be in the stands, Durkin guesses the Corn Crib would be at about half capacity.

Regulations will await those fans who make the trip to the Corn Crib. Fans will be asked to maintain a social distancing length of 6 feet and wear a mask when they are unable to. Fans will also be spaced out around the stadium.

Fans have been itching to get back to the stadium, according to Durkin.

“The fan support has been great so far! Since we announced the league back on June 4, the ticket orders have been coming in rapidly, our phones have been ringing nonstop, and people have been pretty active with Kernels on social media,” Durkin said.

“We are really excited to be able to give baseball to the Bloomington-Normal this summer, and it sounds like the community is really loving the idea too.”

Baseball will return to Normal on July 1 and wrap up Aug. 9.

JAKE SERMERSHEIM is a Sports Editor for The Vidette. He can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter at @JakeSermersheim

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