The Region's Team Of Northwest Indiana


Oilmen Front Office Attends Pitch and Hit Club Banquet

01/27/2014 10:51 AM -

Lombard, Ill. – January 27, 2014 – The Northwest Indiana Oilmen front office attended the 68th annual Pitch & Hit Club Banquet on Sunday night.  As temperatures in the Chicagoland area plummeted below zero, the event gave attendees the chance to feel a little warmer by engaging in discussion about America’s pastime. 

Putting Education First
New York Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson, a three-time All-Star, received the Dizzy Trout Ambassador Award for his support of re-establishing baseball opportunities for inner city youths and various non-profit organizations. 

Granderson pledged the funding for the new multi-million dollar baseball stadium on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago, his alma mater.  The university named the complex Curtis Granderson Stadium as a token of appreciation for his financial contributions.

"UIC has given me a million opportunities and gave me my college degree,” Granderson said.  “That’s something nobody can ever take away from me.  Baseball was definitely secondary, but I got the most out of it.” 

A Remarkable Recovery
When Texas Rangers reliever Neal Cotts trotted out to the mound on May 21, 2013, he was finally able to put four years of pain and frustration behind him.

Cotts had not pitched in the big leagues since May 25, 2009 as a member of the Chicago Cubs.  During the four-year layoff, he underwent multiple elbow and hip surgeries.

In his Rangers’ debut, Cotts needed just six pitches to send down the Oakland Athletics in order.  This was a sign of things to come for the 33-year-old as he posted a career-best 1.11 earned run average in 58 relief appearances during the 2013 season.

“It was special,” Cotts said.  “Going through some ups and downs injury-wise and just getting back out there was nerve-wracking at first but it was really special to get over that hump.”

Cotts played his college ball at Illinois State University after graduating from Lebanon High School, where he played basketball, soccer and baseball. He was awarded with the Chicago Area Major League Player of the Year honor.

Cotts holds the distinction of being a part of the select group of players that have played for both the Cubs and the White Sox.  He won a World Series during his four-year stint on the South Side before calling Wrigley Field home for parts of three seasons starting in 2007. 

The Long and Winding Road
In September of 2010, Bo Jackson Courage Award winner Steve Delabar was substitute teaching and coaching high school baseball in Kentucky.  Fast-forward one year, and he was toeing the rubber for his big league debut with the Seattle Mariners on Sept. 11, 2011.

“It was incredible,” Delabar said.  “I really didn’t have any feelings when I went back out there because I was kind of numb.  It was more adrenaline rush than anything.”

After floating around the San Diego Padres Class-A ranks for six years, Delabar suffered a severe elbow injury in 2009 that caused him to move on from the game of baseball.   He experimented with a throwing program that he thought could be beneficial for his high school athletes, only to find that it allowed him to rejuvenate his playing career. 

The speed of his fastball spiked from 92 to 98, earning him a spot in Class-A with the Mariners.  He quickly moved up the Seattle chain before cracking the big league roster in September.  Now a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, Delabar has finished two full Major League seasons.

Trading a Glove for a Microphone
Mitch Williams is in his second career as a member of the baseball community.  The former big league reliever, who accumulated 192 saves during his 11-year career with the Rangers, Cubs, Phillies, Astros, Angels and Royals, serves as a studio analyst for the Major League Baseball Network.

The transition from the field to the television studio did not require much of an adjustment for the outspoken left-hander.

“It was easy, because all I’m doing is talking about the game that I have played since I was five years old,” he said.  “It’d be one thing if we were talking about stocks and bonds, then I’d be uncomfortable, but it’s baseball, so it wasn’t hard for me.”

Williams listed Harold Reynolds and Sean Casey as two of his favorite MLB Network colleagues.

“Probably the guy that’s right there in my intellect level is Sean Casey,” he said.  “Case is one of the best people I’ve ever met.”

Williams signed with the San Diego Padres after being selected at the ripe age of 17 in the 1982 First-Year Player Draft.  He jumped at the chance to enter minor league baseball, even though it meant temporarily bypassing a college education.

“The reason I did was that I knew what I wanted to do for a living,” he said.  “I wanted to play baseball.  I figured I could always go back to college.  I can’t always get into professional baseball, so I went that route.”

High School Memories
When Curtis Granderson reflects on his time as a prep player at T.F. South, he recalls the joy of playing with teammates that he had been with for his whole life.  The core of that team played together from t-ball through varsity. 

“The biggest thing in high school was just how fun it was,” he said.  “When it’s fun like that guys get to play together for a long period of time, that’s how you get successful.”

On the subject of high school success, Mitch Williams enjoyed his fair share of just that at West Linn High School in Oregon.  Williams was a dual threat, posting a 17-0 record on the mound as a senior while setting the state record for home runs.  His team won the state championship. 

A Confidence Boost
Granderson returned to UIC for his junior season with a new-found confidence.  After batting .328 in 44 games for the Mankato Mashers of the Northwoods League during the summer after his sophomore season, he realized he could compete with top-tier talent.

“I saw that I was right with the kids from Baylor, the kids from UCLA,” he said.  “It was a huge confidence boost for me and that allowed me to excel the way I did when I came back for my junior year.”

The confidence translated to results on the field, where he posted the second-highest batting average in the nation at .483 as a junior.

Before his sophomore season, Granderson had spent a summer playing in the Skyscraper Baseball League.

A Brave Trio
Atlanta Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez attended the banquet as the Major League Manager of the Year.  He discussed the 2014 Hall of Fame Class, which features ex-Braves Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux as well as Gonzalez’s predecessor in the Atlanta dugout, Bobby Cox.

“We didn’t know if Glavine was going to go in or not,” Gonzalez said.  “There was talk that he may not get in; Maddux was a sure shot in.  Bobby said, ‘Man, I sure hope Glavine goes in with me and Maddux because that wouldn’t be fair if I got to go in before he does.’” 

Gonzalez said he thinks Maddux is smart for choosing not to have a team logo on his Hall of Fame cap. 

Other Award Winners

President’s Award – Family of Jerry Hairston, Sr.

Club Service Award – Tony D’Anza

Organization of the Year – Salvi Sports Enterprises

Chicago Area Amateur Coach of the Year – Brian Hurry, Mount Carmel (high school coach of Oilman Jason Gasser)

Chicago Area Minor League Player of the Year – Dean Anna

Amateur Service Award – Bill “Doc” Dwoinen

Jerome Holtzman Award – David Kaplan, Sarah Lauch and Ryan McGuffey of CSN Chicago for “5 Outs” documentary on 2003 Cubs

Woman of the Year – Kim DeJesus (wife of David DeJesus), who is active in the fight against ALS

Sportswriter of the Year – Pat Disabato, Southtown Star

Minor League Executive of the Year – Andy Viano, Schaumberg Boomers

Scout of the Year – Harvey Kuenn, Jr., Milwaukee Brewers

Broadcaster of the Year – Todd Hollandsworth, Comcast Sports Net