March 31, 2008
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The baseball game has been scheduled, now let the begging for a spectator-friendly spring evening begin.
The fifth annual Corridor Classic, presented by Cedar Rapids Toyota Scion, between the University of Iowa and Northern Iowa baseball teams, will be Wednesday, April 30, at 6:30 p.m. inside Veteran’s Memorial Stadium on Dale and Thomas Popcorn Field. Iowa snapped a three-game winning streak by UNI when the Hawkeyes posted a 5-4 victory on May 15, 2007.
“It’s two teams that really respect each other,” UI head coach Jack Dahm said at a press conference Monday. “I’ve been playing against (Northern Iowa head coach Rick Heller’s) teams for a long time and he gets his teams to play so hard. Northern Iowa always gives its best effort against us. You have two programs that really respect each other and play really hard in between the lines.”
Ticket prices — the same as games to watch the Cedar Rapids Kernels — are $9 for premiere seats, $8 for club, $7 for plaza and $6 for lawn seating.
“I do have one parting, final request,” said Rex Eno, chairman of the American Diabetes Chapter. “We have three terrific television stations here and all have meteorologists. I’d really like them to get on the ball and get us a decent day for this game.”
Eno said the Corridor Classic is the ADA’s “signature event” in the corridor area and the game has raised more than a half a million dollars for diabetes research and education. The problem for Eno is that he can’t cheer real loud during the contest.
“My wife and I are UNI people and both our kids went to Iowa,” Eno said. “So we have to be careful who we root for, so we just root for a good game.”
This year the event added a pre-game mini-clinic from 5:45-6:15 p.m. where children under 12 years of age can interact with Hawkeye and Panther players and coaches in the outfield.
“It’s not just a baseball game, it’s definitely an event that has continued to grow every year,” Dahm said. “When I got the job at the University of Iowa, Rick and I wanted to do something in Eastern Iowa to draw a big crowd and help both universities and help baseball in the community and get younger kids and high school kids excited about college baseball. We want to get kids out here to be Hawkeye and Panther fans and get them excited about baseball.”
UNI won the first three games in the series — 8-3 in 2004, 8-6 in 2005 and 4-2 in 2006 — before Iowa pulled out the one-run victory a year ago.
“This has really turned into something special,” Heller said. “Both teams love playing this because a lot of them are Iowa kids and they know each other and it really gives them a stage to perform upon. So few people see a college baseball game in the spring. We want to try to get as many people out here as we can and bring notice to our programs and hopefully help baseball in the state of Iowa.”
Dahm drew one of the heartiest rounds of laughter of afternoon during a question and answer session with Heller. Moments after Heller finished discussing the prowess of the Panthers — more specifically a no-hitter thrown by junior Nick Kirk on March 28 against Evansville — Dahm became inquisitive.
“Is Nick Kirk going to throw against us?” Dahm joked.
Kernels general manager Jack Roeder said that the Angels’ professional club likes to get involved with the community and especially the ADA affiliation.
“Obviously when we can open (our facility) up to Iowa, Northern Iowa — two class universities, two great coaches, two great guys — it really is a feel-good story for everybody,” Roeder said. “The interest is there. This could be a special year for us.”
Although a victory in the Corridor Classic is an obvious goal, there is also an underlying tone that a win or a loss isn’t the only objective when these teams annually collide.
“You’re going to see two teams go out there and battle extremely hard,” Dahm said. “The people in the state of Iowa will be very excited about the way Northern Iowa and the University of Iowa represent their state.”
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