06/29/2013 8:57 AM -
The Northwest Indiana Oilmen are preparing to welcome the United States Military All-Stars to Oil City Stadium for the second consecutive year. Two Oilmen on the current roster saw action in last year’s 9-8 loss to the U.S. Military All-Stars.
In that game, the Oilmen plated five runs in the bottom of the second to snag a 5-1 lead, but the All-Stars slowly chipped away with two runs in the fifth, three in the sixth, two in the seventh and the winning run in the top of the ninth. However, the game was about much more than just the final score.
“It’s just got a different feeling to it,” manager Justin Huisman said. “You always have honor and respect for your country, but when they’re right there in front of your face and you’re playing ball against them, it’s an awesome feeling and you just feel proud to be an American. The crowd’s really into it and having a good time and cheering for both teams.”
Munster graduate Jim Hinkleman, who is still a member of the Oilmen, was the starting pitcher in last year’s game. Lowell’s Craig Austgen started at third base.
“I just remember this place was packed,” he said. “It was great to have all the fans behind you. You could just hear them roar. The intensity for both teams was just insane.”
Pinch hitter Mike Lange and second baseman Jared Hunt each homered for the Military All-Stars in last year’s game. Lange was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
“A few of them were pretty good,” Huisman said. “I expected them to be decent, but I didn’t expect some of them to be as good as they were.”
Austgen was one of three Oilmen with multi-hit games against the Military squad last season.
“It wasn’t easy,” he said. “I came in thinking they were just normal guys, but they came to play and they surprised me with how good they were.”
The stands were packed with fans that enjoyed a showing of patriotism and baseball.
“It’s always good to have packed stands,” Huisman said. “It just brings an energy and a buzz. You can just hear the crowd chatting, talking, cheering and having a good time. Any time you have an atmosphere like that, you can’t help but be more focused and have more fun playing ball.”
Both Huisman and Austgen soaked up the unique chance to play against the Military All-Stars last season and look forward to sharing that experience with their teammates this season.
“You’ve got soldiers right there fighting for your country and going around promoting the country playing baseball,” Huisman said. “It’s the country you love and the game you love all represented in one night.”