JOLIET – Fans got a special opportunity to meet some of the players from the Frontier League champion Joliet Slammers in a ceremony at Joliet Route 66 Stadium on Wednesday, one day after one of the biggest days in the team’s history.
The Slammers capped a memorable season by winning the final game of the best-of-five Frontier League championship series, 4-2, in Washington, Pennsylvania.
Joliet’s first league title since its first season in 2011 capped a day in which the team also got a new five-year lease from the city of Joliet. No champion in the history of the Frontier League had ever failed to field a team the following season after winning a title.
Manager Jeff Isom’s team scored two runs in the second inning and two more in the third to grab a 4-1 lead, and the Wild Things, who were seeking their first league title since relocating to southwest Pennsylvania, were only able to score one more run after that.
In a story that will long be remembered in Slammers’ lore, Cody Clark, who started the season as a catcher but gradually saw more and more time as a reliever, retired the final 16 batters he faced, while striking out eight to collect the victory. Clark also was named the MVP of the championship series.
While many players took advantage of already being out east to make their trip home a little bit easier, some of this year’s top performers were on hand along with Slammers general manager Heather Mills to greet fans who wanted to pose with the Frontier League trophy.
“What an awesome year,” L.J. Kalawaia said. “We had a great group of guys with great coaches, and it couldn’t have ended up any better since it was team baseball the whole year. This group was real close, and I feel like Jeff didn’t feel the urge to let anybody go because of how close everybody was. It just showed at the end that this is the team that he wanted the whole year. We played all 10 games in the playoffs, and that was crazy. But that just shows the heart and desire of how much we wanted to win this and bring the title back to Joliet.”
After the Slammers dropped a
2-1 decision in Game 4, fans realized that they wouldn’t get to see their team play again but hoped for a chance to see them return as champions.
“Cody Clark couldn’t be stopped on the mound, but he’s had a lot of experience pitching and knew what he was doing out there,” Travis Bolin said. “We love playing on the road for some reason. It just seemed in the second half of the year that we got really hot on the road. I’ve never been on a team where everyone connected so well. Everyone meshed together, and nobody didn’t get along. It was a lot of fun, and it was a heck of a ride.”
Most of the Slammers realize that they either haven’t or won’t again get the chance to play on a team such as this, that had such great chemistry and where all were working for each other.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it will in a couple of days or a week,” Ridge Hoopii-Haslam said. “What a season, and what a good group of guys. Being around good people brings you good energy, and that helps you win ball games. Jeff thought that he had something special, so we didn’t make many moves. In the end, it was about pitching and defense. I just want to thank the fans for their support and the city of Joliet. And I’d like to come next year and do it again.”
For longtime fans such as Craig Lichtenwalter, who’s been a season-ticket holder since the team came to Joliet, seeing the Slammers win a second league title in eight years is great.
“It was awesome to see that first team win it, especially since they did it at home, and we could celebrate,” Lichtenwalter said. “We only had to make a couple of moves, but this was one of the first years where no one got picked up, so the team’s cohesiveness and chemistry really paid off. You could see it after that 10-game winning streak, that was huge. I was involved in going to City Council meetings, so yesterday turned out to be a win-win situation.”