Oilmen meet the ‘Globetrotters of Baseball’ in eventful exhibition
By Dave Melton Post-Tribune correspondent July 1, 2012 11:26PM
Oilmen short stop #15, Bennett Oliver forces Garrett Jenner out at 2nd and rockets the ball to 1st base for a double play in the 2nd inning vs the Military All Stars at Oil City Stadium in Whiting on Sunday July 1, 2012. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 3, 2012 6:25AM
WHITING—It was at a baseball seminar last October that Northwest Indiana Oilmen Don Popravak was first informed of the US Military All-Stars.
“Everything about their organization seemed like a fit with what we wanted to bring here to kick off our week of saluting our patriots,” said Popravak.
Nine months later, the Oilmen and the All-Stars met for an exhibition match at Oil City Stadium.
“It’s been an electric atmosphere tonight,” Popravak said during the game. “We have to support those that sacrifice for us and it’s especially important around this time of year.”
“It’s hard not to have a great atmosphere with those guys in uniform on the other team,” said Oilmen manager Justin Huisman.
The US Military All-Stars refer to themselves as “The Harlem Globetrotters of Baseball,” boasting a winning percentage over .700. Each year, the All-Stars tour the United States, accepting baseball challenges all over the country. Their roster is comprised of veterans from all branches of the military.
Before the game began, a moving pre-game ceremony featured several patriotic tributes, including the presentation of the Ground Zero Flag—the same flag that was raised at the site of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Once the game started, the biggest cheers of the night were for All-Stars outfielder Tom LaFlech. The 2003 Lowell graduate, who returned from Iraq last winter, batted eighth for the All-Stars and started the game in right field.
“It’s really nice to come back and be able to see everybody,” said LaFlech. “I know I’ve got a lot of friends and family in the crowd tonight.”
A five-run rally by the Oilmen in the second inning, paced by RBI singles from Brandon Krieg and Craig Austgen, helped NWI grab an early 5-1 lead. By the middle of the sixth inning, though, the All-Stars had fought back to tie the game at six. Final results of the game were not available at press time.