|League||Frontier League (West)|
|Ballpark||The Corn Crib|
|Colors||Green, gold, black, white
|General Manager||Mike Petrini|
The Normal CornBelters are a professional baseball team based in Normal, Illinois, which is part of the Bloomington-Normal metropolitan area. They began play in May 2010 as a member of the Frontier League, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. The "CornBelters" name refers to Illinois' location in the Corn Belt.
On March 30, 2009, ground was broken for a $12 million multi-purpose stadium adjacent to Heartland Community College on Raab Road. The CornBelters will share the facility with Heartland’s baseball, softball, and soccer programs. The facility was completed in time for the CornBelters' inaugural 2010 season.
On October 20, 2009, it was announced that the stadium would be known as The Corn Crib. The name was the result of a naming rights partnership with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board (ICMB). The naming rights agreement lasts for two years with an "automatic renewal". Both team and ICMB officials declined to disclose the financial terms of the partnership.
Name-the-team contest and surrounding controversy
The CornBelters were named after a fan vote to determine the name. A publicity stunt occurred after the four finalists were unveiled:
Normal Nutz; an homage to the Beer Nuts brand based in nearby Bloomington (NOTE: The entries were originally "Nuts," but the ownership modified it to avoid conflict with the California League's Modesto Nuts) Normal NightHawks; a popular alliterative nickname. Normal CornBelters; a reference to Illinois' location in the Corn Belt. "Belt" is also a slang term meaning to hit the ball hard. Normal Coal Bears; submitted by fans of political satirist and The Colbert Report host Stephen Colbert (pronounced [kʰɔlˈbɛɹ], just like "coal bear"). Since the character often encourages these fans (known as the "Colbert Nation") to vote for things to be named after him, the team is hoping he'll give them some attention (similar to the Ontario Hockey League's Saginaw Spirit, whose mascot is named Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle and has gotten the team and league mentioned often on the show).   In addition to the reference, Illinois (especially the west side of Bloomington-Normal) also has a strong heritage in coal mining, as reflected by future rival the Southern Illinois Miners.  Voting was originally set to take place until April 27. On the first day of voting, the Coal Bears had a significant 95% lead in the poll. However, that lead would significantly decline in the next two days to 24% with "Nutz" leading at 75%. Many fans suspected voting fraud, as "Nutz" had business ties and an "anti-Coal Bears" conspiracy was suggested by the fan-run normalcoalbears.com. On April 24, owner Steve Malliet announced that due to these allegations, he was starting the poll over again, this time requiring every voter to submit various information to enforce a "one fan, one vote" policy. This system was easily overcome by the same local hackers that had rigged the results of the earlier poll with a python script, and the name that had been last in the original round of voting was bumped to the top via another script that was able to leverage a flaw in the voting site's CAPTCHA mechanism. While "Nutz," "CornBelters," and "Coal Bears" were kept, "NightHawks" was dropped because of the term's other meaning as a position of responsibility in the Ku Klux Klan. In addition, two other choices were added:
Normal Fellers; an homage to Jesse W. Fell, the founder of Illinois State University (ergo, the founder of the city of Normal), as well as the term "Feller" referring to "regular guy". Normal CamelBacks; an homage to Camelback Bridge, built to allow steam locomotives to pass underneath and currently arching over Constitution Trail. It is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Hal Lanier was announced as the team's first manager on October 7, 2009. Lanier managed the Houston Astros to a division title in 1986 and is a former Major League player and coach as well. Over 21 seasons as a major, minor and independent league manager, Lanier has compiled a record of 1,338-1,033.
The Normal CornBelters' inaugural season schedule was released on October 16, 2009. The CornBelters' season opened at the Evansville Otters on May 21, 2010. The home opener, the first in team history, was played at 7 p.m. on June 1, 2010 against the Windy City ThunderBolts. The team had 51 home games in 2010 and their season ended on September 5, 2010. The team finished with a 44-52 record. Two CornBelters were named 2010 All-Stars and played in the All-Star Game: RHP Tyler Lavigne and 3B Daniel Cox.
- Nielsen, Adam. "Celebrating a major milestone at Heartland", Just About Normal (blog by local reporter), March 31, 2009, accessed October 31, 2009.
- Reinhardt, Randy. "Baseball stadium gets a name: The Corn Crib", The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois), October 20, 2009, accessed October 31, 2009.
- Reinhardt, Randy. "CornBelters tab former Cardinals coach as first manager", The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois), October 7, 2009, accessed October 31, 2009.
- Pawlowski, Stephanie. "Normal CornBelters release schedule", WJBC, October 16, 2009, accessed October 31, 2009.
- Reinhardt, Randy. "CornBelters' first home game June 1", The Pantagraph, October 16, 2009, accessed October 31, 2009.