April 30, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Division of Intercollegiate Athletics announced Monday that the fourth-annual Bleacher Bum Barbecue presented by FOX 55/27, the premier promotion for Fighting Illini baseball, will be held Friday, May 4, when Illinois hosts Michigan State at 6:05 p.m. at Illinois Field. The event has quickly become successful, as the previous three editions have drawn an average crowd of 3,346 fans to Illinois Field, including an all-time high of 5,214 in 2009.
This year's Bleacher Bum Barbecue will feature free admission and parking, and the first 2,000 fans will be able to enjoy a free meal of a hot dog, chips and bottled water. Justin Spring, head coach of the NCAA champion Fighting Illini men's gymnastics team will throw out the first pitch and the men's gymnasts will lead Illinois fans in singing the seventh inning stretch.
Fans will be able to win prizes by playing baseball bingo throughout the evening and they can stick around after the final out to enjoy a postgame fireworks show. Kids also will be able to enjoy inflatable games along the grass area down the right-field line. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. with first pitch at 6:05 p.m.
The Fighting Illini and Spartans are in the thick of an extremely tight Big Ten race, as they are currently part of a four-way tie for fourth place at 8-7 in the conference standings, only one game behind second-place Minnesota and Indiana (9-6). Purdue leads the Big Ten with a 14-4 league record with some teams having two and others having three series remaining.
The first Bleacher Bum Barbecue was a night to remember at Illinois Field, with the school-record crowd of 5,214 being treated to a thrilling ninth-inning comeback that saw the No. 25 Illini score three runs against Jake Hale, the Big Ten's best closer, to top the No. 27 Buckeyes. Left fielder Casey McMurray delivered the game-winning hit, a single through the right side, to drive in Mike Giller after OSU had committed a pair of errors in the ninth.
A season-high 2,805 fans attended the 2010 edition of the Bleacher Bum Barbecue but the Illini couldn't pull out a victory, falling 11-4 to Northwestern despite a three-hit night by shortstop Josh Parr and a pair of RBIs from Giller. Last year, the Illini pulled out a 13-9 comeback victory over Ohio State in front of a season-high 2,019 fans. Will Strack threw four scoreless innings of relief and Illinois scored six runs in its final three at bats to take the series-opener from the Buckeyes.