DECATUR — Collegiate summer baseball may be returning to Decatur next year, and a former Major League Baseball player may help bring it.
Millikin University and the Prospect Collegiate League have reached a "memorandum of understanding" to establish a team that would play summer baseball at the Workman Family Baseball Field on the Millikin campus beginning in 2020.
The league is currently in the process of putting together an owner and operator group for the Decatur team who will then finalize a leasing agreement with Millikin to play at Workman Field.
Four-time National League batting champion and Eisenhower graduate Bill Madlock has expressed interest in the Decatur team.
During a press conference held at Workman Field, which is still under construction, Prospect League Commissioner Dennis Bastien announced the agreement.
"This began when I read that Millikin received a generous donation to build a new ballpark and I contacted Millikin and worked with Athletic Director (Craig) White and President (Pat) White and today I am announcing that the Prospect League would make this the 13th team for the 2020 season," he said. "The Prospect League is extremely proud of having Decatur become a part of the league. Geographically, it is in the heart and center of our footprint and I foresee rivalries with Springfield and Normal."
The Prospect League, previously known as the Central Illinois Collegiate League (CICL), was founded in 1963 and is a wood bat league that features college players with NCAA eligibility remaining. A Decatur team, the Blues, were a part of the CICL from 1986 to 2003. There are currently 12 teams in the league, including the Normal CornBelters and Springfield Sliders. Seasons run 60 games — 30 at home and 30 away.
"We are excited by the prospect of having the Prospect League play here at Millikin," Pat White said. "Not only will Workman Field will be an exciting addition to Millikin but it will also be a real boon for the city of Decatur.
"Millikin is Decatur's university and we are doing what we can to support development and economic advancement for the city. There's a lot of work to be done and we look forward to the progress that is ahead."
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Bastien said he's been in contact with Madlock several times about potential ownership. Madlock played for six major league teams from 1973 to 1987, was a four-time batting champion and finished with a .305 career batting average.
"I spoke with him today and Bill wants to have an involvement with this in some shape and fashion," Bastien said. "Whether that would be a minority interest from an ownership standpoint or he might even consider some on-the-field duties."
After an owner and lease agreement is reached, a "name the team" contest would follow.
"The 'name the team' contest that would be some analogous to the area — something unique, something maybe crazy," Bastien said. "It would be something that gets your attention and makes the Decatur area proud."
CICL players who made it to the majors include Baseball Hall of Fame members Mike Schmidt and Kirby Puckett, and All-Stars Joe Niekro, Ryan Howard and Dan Quisenberry.
"(The Prospect League) is among the top collegiate leagues in the country and there will be major league scouts here at the games watching these guys," Bastien said. "Last year we had 50 some players drafted out of the league."
The arrival of the a Prospect League team on Millikin's campus could also provide opportunities for students.
"It would be very exciting because we have many students majored in sports management and so many of them them want to have experience in working of an athletic teams and this will be great to have experience as an intern or an employee right here in town," Pat White said. "That keeps more students here in the summer to support our entire city."
Workman Field, a $5.5 million project funded by private donors, was originally planned to be ready for this season, but was delayed and will be finished in August.