NORMAL — Todd Kunze brings plenty of experience to his new position as Normal CornBelters general manager, even if it’s not necessarily baseball experience.
“It’s exciting,” Kunze said Friday. “I heard about the opportunity, I reached out to them and it kind of progressed to this point. My background is inundated in food and beverage, corporate hospitality and event operations.”
The Belters are in the planning stages for their first season in the summer collegiate Prospect League after nine years in the independent professional Frontier League.
The team was bought by an ownership group of Matt Stembridge, Rick DeStefane and Jimmie Louthan in October. The three have ties to existing Prospect League franchises in Quincy and Hannibal, Mo.
“We are excited to have Todd on board with us,” Stembridge said. “We have recently completed our hires in the front office. We are happy to have that done and excited about these guys getting out in the community in the weeks to come.”
Steve Malliet, a former Normal co-owner and team president, is still with the team in an advisory role, according to Stembridge.
“Steve will be with us throughout the transition period,” Stembridge said. “We are still in the midst of a lot of that.”
Kunze, who said his age is in the “upper 50s,” is a Navy veteran with degrees from Heartland College and Illinois State. While in his mid-40s, Kunze spent two seasons as an ISU basketball student manager under former Redbird coach Tim Jankovich.
“I’ve lived here (Bloomington-Normal) off and on for 30 years,” said Kunze. “I got started doing country music festivals and mediating nonprofit organizations and national recording artists. I’ve done a little over 650 events, and that’s what the management team was excited about.”
Kunze plans on bringing musical events to the Corn Crib but not necessarily traditional concerts.
“For us, it’s creating an event with music,” he said. “We could have a regional or national act and something else going on besides the concert. It’s creating staple events we do each year and the logistics of those. It’s using the Corn Crib to its capabilities.”
Normal field manager Rick White will handle the on-field matters of the Belters, while Kunze will also be responsible for “administrative duties with the staff and interns.”
The Belters open the Prospect League season on May 30 with the first home game slated for June 1.