Archive for June 24, 2015

KOKOMO MUNICIPAL STADIUM VOTED BEST SUMMER-COLLEGIATE BALLPARK

JR National Anthem

KOKOMO, Ind. - Kokomo Municipal Stadium, home of the Prospect League’s Kokomo Jackrabbits, was named best summer-collegiate ballpark after five rounds of voting at Ballparkdigest.com. The Best of the Ballparks competition saw more than 70,000 people cast ballots in the online contest.

“This shows the level of enthusiasm our fans have for Kokomo Municipal Stadium and The Jackrabbits,” said Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight. “The attention to detail for the fan experience helps set us apart. Baseball is back in Kokomo for good. Our fans and our team deserve all the credit for making this happen.”

“Kokomo Municipal Stadium bucks the trend in summer collegiate ball of using older ballparks in the sport — a new ballpark is unusual, to say the least,” said Ballpark Digest publisher Kevin Reichard. “But with a broad base of community support, like that shown by business and government leaders promoting this contest, it’s clear Kokomo Municipal Stadium is already a success.”

Other Indiana ballparks fared well in the Best of the Ballparks competition. Victory Field, home of the Triple A Indianapolis Indians finished in the Final Four. In Low Single A, Four Winds Field, home field of the South Bend Cubs, also was a Final Four finisher. Parkview Field, home of the Low Single A Fort Wayne Tincaps, finished in the top eight.

Ballparkdigest.com is the web's leading guide to ballparks, the culture of baseball and the business of baseball. Read more about the Best of the Ballparks competition and Kokomo’s win at www.ballparkdigest.com

KOKOMO WILDKAT RECORD-BREAKER PARIS McCULLUM NAMED AN INDIANA ALL-STAR IN SOFTBALL

Paris McCullum in action courtesy of Tom Birch/Kokomo Herald

Paris McCullum in action courtesy of Tom Birch/Kokomo Herald

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. - Paris McCullum entered her senior season of softball at Kokomo High School with high hopes and expectations. And despite a loss in the Sweet Sixteen round of the IHSAA tournament, when the Wildkat looks back she will know she was part of a magical season. For her efforts, she was not only crowned as the sixth Indiana North All-Star in Kokomo history, but she will continue her softball career at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee.

“I had always seen myself at a big college,” said McCullum of her college choice. “Once I got there, I got a different feeling. I love the environment and I love what they’re about. I love to help others in my community. It’s not always about me. I like to be there for others. They’re not just about education; they’re about servanthood.”

The Indiana All-Star title is by no accident. McCullum set Lady Wildkat records for stolen bases in a season and walks in a season – both 25. She batted a lofty .482 with a slugging percentage of .783. She also knocked in 32 runs with 11 doubles, four triples and two home runs while scoring 38 times. Many of those numbers led the county stat sheet. In addition, the team set a school record with 24 victories.

“My favorite part of the game is running and stealing bases,” said the record-setting athlete. “I love sliding in head first. I think my favorite part is the hype of the game.”

Kokomo head coach Mike Susong said McCullum deserves whatever accolades head her way.

“She has been exciting this year,” said Susong, the North Central Conference Coach of the Year. “She has been fantastic to watch. I will put up her stats with anyone in the state. We really challenged her at the end of last year, and boy did she really respond. She deserves the credit. I feel she is an Indiana All-Star.”

McCullum joins Nicole Croddy (1992), Amanda Grills (1999), Kailyn Dubois (2007), Elizabeth Wagner (2009), and Carly Painter (2010) as Indiana All-Star softball players from Kokomo. But of that group of elite athletes, only McCullum led her squad to NCC and/or sectional titles. Earlier this spring, the Lady Kats won the school’s first NCC softball title, and the squad followed that with its first sectional title since 2006 (second overall).

“She has shown on the field that she deserved that chance,” said Susong on the Indiana All-Star selection process. “Paris is not only a good player but she has an infectious personality. People flock towards her and she is a good leader with a great work ethic. She is someone we are really going to miss next year.”

She said she worked hard on becoming the player she is today. And she now wants to help other young players get better.

"I was always a decent softball player, but I knew I wanted to take it to the next level. When I went to camps, I always saw girls going the extra mile," said McCullum, a future athletic trainer. "I want to be an influence to the girls in the leagues around here."

But McCullum is more than an athlete – she loves to give back to her community. This summer, she will join a group that will tour Italy and play softball against local teams through the ACIS America’s Team program.

“When I was visiting Wisconsin Lutheran, they were packing up food bags for the Rescue Mission,” McCullum recalled of her visit to the NCAA Division III institution. “When I saw that I knew I loved that. They are not selfish, and that is what I believe in too. That is why I am looking forward to this summer and Italy. I am really blessed.”

Volunteering is part of her culture – especially at the Family Worship Center in Kokomo and local youth sports leagues.

“I try to help out as much as I can there,” she said. “I want to help with daycare and Vacation Bible School in the summer. And of course I help with softball camps and at the Kokomo Girls Softball League. And I do travel ball all summer with the Howard County Thunder.”

Paris McCullum graduated from Kokomo High School as one of the best softball players in school history. The sky is the limit on what the next four years of NCAA softball will bring to the record-breaking player.

REMEMBERING DENNIS KASEY, A FRIEND TO ALL HOOSIER STATE ATHLETES

Dennis Kasey, left, talks to Rob Rube and Bob Winginer at the 2014 Howard County Sports HOF banquet.

Dennis Kasey, left, talks to Rob Rube and Bob Winginer at the 2014 Howard County Sports HOF banquet.

THE DEAN'S LIST WITH DEAN HOCKNEY

I don’t usually check early morning text messages. As a sports writer, I have adjusted my schedule so I can cover late evening events – thus I don’t usually get up before 9 a.m. But on the morning of June 10, my phone chirped at 6:19 a.m. and I rolled over and checked the text message.

“Dennis passed away this morning.”

After shaking the cobwebs, I reread the message from Chris Lowry and said a prayer for the family of Dennis Kasey. We knew his health was in a terminal stage, but even knowing that does not make it any easier for those of us left behind.

I have known Dennis since high school. I originally knew his late twin brother, David, as he allowed me to tag along to a few games he was covering with the Kokomo Tribune. But once you got to know one you were sucked in to know them both – and that was a blessing. Dennis and I became good friends and he was among the first sports authorities I called when I started forming the original board for the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame – his knowledge of sports was legendary.

Instead of writing about what a great man Dennis Kasey was, I thought I would share some of the condolences that poured in via social media in the hours after we learned of his passing. His impact on sports – and people – was felt throughout the Hoosier state.

@Kokomocitytrny1: Thoughts/prayers to all mourning. Dennis was an avid supporter of youth baseball...David A. Kasey Major City Trny.

@HowardKellman: Dennis Kasey was a wonderful man who will be missed. Let's honor Dennis by treating people with the kindness that he showed to others.

@indallstars: The Indiana All-Stars wish to extend our condolences to the family of Dennis Kasey. A friend to the All-Stars and all involved in HS sports.

@IHSAA1: Our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Dennis Kasey. A true gentleman and friend who LOVED Indiana HS sports.

@ChrisDenari: Just heard Dennis Kasey passed away. So sad to hear. One of the good guys who dedicated himself to @IHSAA1 sports.

@gregrakestraw: Just hearing about the passing of Dennis Kasey. All of us locally in sports lost a friend. One of the best people I've ever known.

@carmelathletics: Our thoughts go out to the family & friends of Dennis Kasey. Dennis worked tirelessly for HS athletics in TV with WHMB-TV 40 for 2 decades.

@carpejor512: Dennis Kasey was an amazing role model. I couldn't have asked for a better role model growing up.

@crimsonace: Sending my condolences to the friends & family of Dennis Kasey. One of the best people in IN media & a great supporter of @IHSAA1 sports

@padrefan13: Very sad to hear of the passing of Dennis Kasey. I had the honor of being the first and only to beat "The 2 Fat Guys" at #HalfMoon. RIP

@timweeks4_: D.K. wasn't ashamed of his Faith...He is happy now with his LORD...but we will miss him! Life is short, eternity is 4ever!

Dennis, I can’t wait to swap sports trivia with you again in heaven.

Until next time, remember to keep the man and ship in sports – and I’ll see you at the game.

Dean Hockney is the publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana and sports editor of the Kokomo Herald. You can follow him on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) for the latest in local sports news and game reports.