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To steal and paraphrase a line from Major League, "welcome, to another season of Northern Illinois baseball."

The defending Mid-American Conference West Division Champion Huskies opened practice Friday, January 24 at the brand Chessick Practice Center, adjacent to the Yordon Center. It was the team's first full practice at the facility.

Matt Gray of College Baseball Central, a former scout turned writer, came out from Woodstock, Ill. to take in the opening practice of the season, snap some photos and talk with a few players and coaches.

Gray has already written three articles on the Huskies, talking with Head Coach Ed Mathey, 2013 First Team All-MAC pitcher Eli Anderson and with various others about the first practice of the season.

All three stories are shared below:
Ed Mathey Focused on Pitching and Process for Northern Illinois (Jan. 22)
Eli Anderson: From the Shadows to the Spotlight for NIU (Jan. 23)
Northern Illinois University Opens New Facility, New Baseball Season (Jan. 24)


Thumbnail image for White_Troy Mug

On April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson played in his first Major League Baseball game with the Brooklyn Dodgers, helping them defeat the Boston Braves, 5-3. Though he finished 0-for-3 at the plate, he scored one run and recorded a sacrifice hit in the team's win.

Just another ball game right? Wrong. Robinson took his first step towards changing the landscape of the United States by playing in the game, becoming the first African-American to play in the league and engraining himself in Civil Rights icon. That same season, Robinson aided Brooklyn to its first World Series Championship since 1920. 

Fast forward to today, and the No. 42 is retired by every franchise in MLB, with only one player still wearing the jersey (Mariano Rivera wore the number before it was retired in 1997). 

As I sat in the baseball press box at Miami of Ohio on Sunday morning, I decided to take a look at Twitter and see what was happening in the world of sports. Since Sunday marked the 65th anniversary of Robinson's debut, The Sporting News tweeted out a link to their feature story on Robinson's debut in their April 23, 1947 issue and it the got the wheels in my head spinning.

I was promptly reminded by myself that NIU baseball has a first person connection with Jackie Robinson, through his foundation of course, in senior third baseman Troy White, senior from Chicago and a Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholar. At the beginning of March, received the Nike Award for his work with Cit Cubs program, working alongside Theo Epstien, President of Baseball Operations with the Chicago Cubs.

All accolades aside, White was spectacular for the Huskies on Sunday as he finished the day 7-for-11 at the plate with six RBI, a home run, a double and three runs in NIU's doubleheader. It was an amazing thing to witness at McKie Field on the Miami campus. The Redhawks press box workers simply asked "What's he going to do next?" It was that impressive.

I guess it was meant to be though. Friday, Phil Hersh ran an article in The Chicago Tribune about White's journey to NIU and his off the diamond works and happenings. When I returned to DeKalb, there was a stack of newspapers and a magazine article with a picture of Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widowed wife, and a yellow Post-it note with the words "Troy White reference" and an arrow point out to where in the article.

I read the paragraph and smiled, closed the magazine with my finger saving the page and I saw a picture of Bubba Watson underneath the iconic words "Sports Illustrated" splashed on the front. White was referenced in the article as a success story of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Check it out and see for yourself.

Needless to say it was a pretty good weekend for NIU baseball. Not only did the program sweep Miami (Ohio) for the first time since the teams first met in 1968, there was also some good press, and that's a good. 

My final contribution to the article, a shameless plug for the Northern Illinois Baseball Twitter feed...

For everything NIU baseball, follow on Twitter @NIU_Baseball or click the follow link below.


On one of the beautiful 80 degree days DeKalb had to offer in the month of March, I went outside to watch the team practice at Ralph McKinzie Field and was quickly approached by Head Coach Ed Mathey. As we talked about the happenings of NIU and baseball in general, senior third baseman Troy White took a stab at a hard hit ground ball and came up with the ball and flinged the ball back to home plate as he continued to take the ground balls at practice.

As Mathey and I just laughed at the amazing play that was made by White in front of our own eyes, Mathey said to me "Don't be surprised if that kid becomes a millionaire. Whatever he pursues, he's going to be successful at."

Following an interview Monday morning, I think Troy may have found a believer at The Chicago Tribune in columnist Phil Hersh. Hersh and White spoke on the phone for about 10 minutes and wrote a great piece on White's road to Northern Illinois.

In case you missed it on our YouTube page, here is a television feature released earlier this year on White's story.

Former Huskie Bobby Stevens Promoted to AA Ball

Former Huskie baseball player Bobby Stevens (2006-08) was recently promoted in the Baltimore Orioles organization.  The second baseman was moved from the Orioles' Advanced A team (Frederick Keys) to their AA team (Bowie Baysox).  Baltimore's 16th round pick in 2008 was hitting .241 with six homers and 21 RBI in 64 games for the Keys this season before getting moved up.  Congrats to Mr. Stevens as he continues to progress toward his goal of reaching the Majors!

Catching Up With MAC Freshman of the Year Jeff Zimmerman

The Southtown Star's Pat Disabato recently chatted with 2011 MAC Baseball Freshman of the Year Jeff Zimmerman, breaking down "Zimm's" ascent from Victor J. Andrew High School (Tinley Park, Ill.) standout to the cream of the crop of Mid-American Conference rookies.  Click here to read the article.
NIU Hall of Famer Dave Mason will be inducted into his high school's Hall of Fame on December 9th.  The Philo Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2011 will feature Mason along with two others.  At Philo High School in Duncan Falls, Ohio, Mason won 11 varsity letters, four football, four baseball and three basketball.  He was named an all-conference performer for baseball four times, football three times and basketball once.  He was a starter in every year in each sport. 

In 1970, Mason  took the reigns of the NIU baseball program, where he left an indelible mark.  He put together a .531 winning percentage (94-83-1) in five seasons as head coach for the Huskies and took the 1972 team to NCAA Tournament, giving the program its first trip to the NCAA Tournament.  In 2008, the 1972 team was inducted into the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame, and two members of the team (Tom Wittum and Jay Graziano) were later inducted in the Hall as individuals.

Congrats, Coach Mason!

Coach Mathey Featured on Rawlings Video

Mathey.jpegA few months back, NIU baseball head coach Ed Mathey spoke on camera to Rawlings about the importance of coaches at the Division I level.  Click here to view the video that is featured on Rawlings' Facebook page.  His part is near the end from about 1:43-2:06.

Three Huskies Baseball Players Get Unique Experience

"It's not everyday that you can walk into the dugout and be congratulated by Ryan Klesko."

That's what NIU baseball's Trey Lang said Tuesday night after Ryan Klesko visited the clubhouse of the Hannibal Cavemen, a collegiate summer team in the Prospect League.  Klesko, a former MLB standout, and Woody Williams, another former MLB standout, recently became part of the ownership group for the Hannibal, Mo., team.  The two pros took the time to meet and greet the team Tuesday night.  To read about the details and advice that Lang, his Huskie teammates Jake Hermsen and Jeff Zimmerman, and the rest of the Cavemen received, click here.

Three Former Huskies Make Joliet Slammers Squad

Former NIU Huskie baseball players Andy Deain (2006-10), Chuck Lukanen (2009-10) and Brian Smith (2005-10) all made the Opening Day roster for the Joliet Slammers of the Frontier League.  The Slammers begin their season tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m. CT at home against the Washington Wild Things.  To follow their progress, check out the team's website by clicking here.

Welcome the Newest Addition to the Huskie Family

RayNap.jpegFifth-year NIU pitching coach Ray Napientek and his wife Randi welcomed the newest member of the Huskie family this morning at 9:24 a.m.  Weighing in at eight pounds and 20.5 inches long, Katherine Anne Napientek and the family are doing well and resting.  The Napientek's second addition to the family makes three-year-old Kara a very excited big sister.  Congrats to the Napienteks!

NIU Baseball Highlights on WREX TV

Missed some of the last weekend's action as NIU baseball grabbed first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division with a 2-1 series win over Toledo?  Don't worry, Jude Wilbers, from WREX Channel 13 in Rockford, was there to get highlights of Game One.  For video of the exciting 4-3 walk-off Huskie win, click here.

Get to Know NIU Pitching Coach Ray Napientek a Little Better

RayNap.jpegAssistant coach Ray Napientek has been handling Ed Mathey's pitching staff for five years.  During his experience, he has developed a knack for how to handle each pitcher and pitching staff differently.  Yesterday, the Northern Star's Andrew Singer chatted with the Huskie pitching coach to find out what his secrets to success are.  Click here to read.

Ralph McKinzie Field's Facelift

The Ralph.jpegIf you have been out to Ralph McKinzie Field this season, you may have noticed some changes.  If you haven't been out to "The Ralph" yet, there have been some changes, and the field is looking as sharp as ever.  Since being built in 1965, the field has gone through several modifications.  The latest upgrade improved the warning track, infield, bullpen, mound and home plate ring, among other smaller changes.  For more info and pictures of the improvements, check out this page done by the Midwest Athletic Fields, the company that worked on the field during the fall and winter months.

Jeremy Gonzales made history yesterday, becoming just the second NIU pitcher ever to be named National Pitcher of the Week. Today, "Gonzo" is featured on the front page of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association website, as seen above.  For a first-hand glimpse of the site, click here.

To earn the honor, Gonzales hurled a three-hit complete game shutout on Sunday against Miami (Ohio). For more details on the senior's impressive accomplishment, click here.

Pair of Huskies Sign With Joliet Slammers

Two former Huskie baseball players, Andy Deain and Brian Smith, inked deals with the Joliet Slammers of the Frontier League yesterday.  Deain was previously with the Baltimore Orioles organization for the 2010 season, while Smith will get his first experience in pro ball.  For more information on the signings, check out this article on the TribLocal Joliet website. 

2011 NIU Baseball iGuide is Here!


Click on the image above to view the 2011 Northern Illinois Baseball Interactive Guide.  The "iGuide" presents the Huskie baseball program in a dynamic and engaging format that includes program information, highlights, video, history and more.  Get your fix of the Huskies before they open the season Friday at Southern Utah.

Baseball Season is Here!

Etch.jpegPitchers and catchers reported for Major League Baseball's 2011 season on Sunday and Monday.  But entire college baseball teams, the Huskies included, reported a long time ago to prepare for the 2011 campaign.  NIU throws the first pitch of the year Friday against Southern Utah in Cedar City, Utah.  Stay tuned to this week for the release of the 2011 iGuide, season outlook and preview of the Southern Utah three-game weekend series.  The 2011 baseball season is underway this week!

Baseball Leadoff Banquet Tickets Available Just One More Day!

Baseball-Team-1.jpgThe clock is ticking as only one day remains to purchase tickets to NIU baseball's annual Leadoff Banquet (January 20 is the deadline), which will be held on Januray 30 at the White Eagle Golf Club in Naperville, Ill.  The festive night includes dinner, keynote speaker Rick Cerrone of the New York Yankees, the opportunity to meet and greet the roster, a silent auction of NIU and MLB memorabilia, and more.  For more information, click here.  Don't miss out on this great night!
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