Back of pressbox revamped for upcoming baseball season

Pitcher Jeff Paarlberg bats Sunday against the Illinois alumni team at Illinois Field. The Illini won 6-1. The Daily Illini

Pitcher Jeff Paarlberg bats Sunday against the Illinois alumni team at Illinois Field. The Illini won 6-1. The Daily Illini

By Erik Hall

When fans enter Illinois field this spring, there might be a new addition.

The Illinois Dugout Club is scheduled to mount plaques on the back of the press box to honor several former Illinois baseball players. The Dugout Club unveiled replicas of the plaques before Sunday’s alumni baseball game.

The Dugout Club is the booster club for the Illinois baseball team.

“It looks good,” said Darrin Fletcher, former Illinois catcher and one of nine Dugout Club directors. “That’s kind of the temporary product right there. The finished product is probably going to be some different looking plaques. That is a nice touch.”

Fletcher played 13 seasons of Major League Baseball from 1990-2002. He will be one of the more prominently recognized former Illini.

Eight plaques the size of a TV Guide magazine will honor the Illini who have played Major League Baseball for at least one complete season since 1990. Other plaques list major league players before 1990, former first-team All-Americans, Big Ten players of the year, Big Ten pitchers of the year, Big Ten Medal of Honor recipients and Illinois athletes of the year.

“It will be great,” said Andy Dickinson, 2001 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. “I enjoyed all my four years playing Illinois baseball. It will be nice to know that when people come they will be able to see my name somewhere and see my contributions to the program. It’s a good feeling.”

Dickinson made 26 starts this summer for the Oakland A’s Class AA team.

The Dugout Club’s final plaque honors the greatest Illinois baseball player, Lou Boudreau.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Boudreau – Illinois’ third baseman from 1936-1938 – in 1970 for his career as a Cleveland Indians shortstop.

The Dugout Club hopes to eventually expand the number of people honored for their contributions to Illinois baseball.

“Next thing we’ll do is get (plaques of) all the coaches along the top,” said Spencer Atkins, Dugout Club President from 2001-2002 who started this project. “We would go back to the first coach that Illinois had, and we’d put them up at the top and then continue with each new coach that would come in.”

WHAT TIME IS IT?

Sunday, the Illinois baseball team got a break from practicing to play in the annual alumni game.

The morning started with a home run derby, which alumni Pat Arlis won with five home runs in the final. The plans for the Wall of Fame were presented after the home run derby.

Once the alumni game started, Arlis batted second and scored the alumni’s only run of the game. The current Illini only scored one run in the first four innings.

After Dickinson, who pitched the first four innings, left the game, Illinois started scoring on its way to a 6-1 win. The current Illini played without four expected starters and their top three returning pitchers.

All-Big Ten catcher Chris Robinson batted 3-for-5, senior Dusty Bensko batted 2-for-4 and sophomore Mike Rohde batted 2-for-4 to lead the Illini offensively.

“Anytime you can get hits off good pitching that’s a bonus,” Robinson said. “It’s a long way to the first game of the season so you can’t get too excited about it.”