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Are you ready for some baseball?

Local baseball, with friends and neighbors in the stands, familiar faces in the concession area and a team whose name has Clinton in it?

Tonight that will happen when the Clinton LumberKings take on the Burlington Bees on Clinton’s NelsonCorp Field in Riverview Park.

No doubt this will be a special home-opener. Just a few months ago, we were unsure that we’d even have a home team to cheer on when the season rolled around. Based on restructuring within Minor League Baseball, Clinton was dropped from the list of cities to field a team, a crushing blow for a ball club that up until earlier this year was the only remaining charter member of the Midwest League.

While the local team joined the league for its inaugural season in 1954, then known as the Mississippi-Ohio Valley League, professional baseball in Clinton owns even deeper roots. The current home of the LumberKings was built in 1937 as a project of the Works Progress Administration for an estimated cost of $150,000 and since that time, the team has been affiliated with 16 different Major League franchises and began an affiliation with the Miami Marlins in 2019. Over 280 of the Clinton team’s players have graduated to the Major Leagues.

So when we were dropped from Minor League Baseball, it stung.

But tonight, as the result of a lot of hard work by LumberKings General Manager Ted Tornow, Clinton’s stadium lights will be burning bright when the LumberKings play their first game in the Prospect League.

The Prospect League is a 16-team Collegiate Wood Bat league with teams spread across the Midwest from eastern Missouri to western Pennsylvania. The season runs from today to Aug. 4 for a total of 60 games – 30 at home and 30 on the road. The league is split into two conferences, each with two divisions. There will be a first half and a second half champion in each division. Playoffs start on Aug. 5, the day after the regular season ends.

Even as the MLB’s pending decision first loomed large over the future of baseball in Clinton, Tornow remained optimistic, frequently stating, “There will be baseball in Clinton in 2021.”

He was correct: Game time is at 6:30 p.m. today.

See you at the field!

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