News Tribune

Pistol Shrimp will officially return to Peru for the 2022 season

‘My expectation is that we’ll be here for the third year and for the 13th year,’ team owner says

The Shrimp are back in Peru.

The Illinois Valley Pistol Shrimp reached a property use agreement with the city to play its home games at Veterans Park for the upcoming baseball season. The announcement was made during Monday’s City Council meeting, with a news conference from team owner John Jakiemiec that followed.

“Earlier this year we were kind of scrambling to find a place to play and I said at that time when asked what happens after the summer of 2021; I said at that time ‘We are solving the problem that’s in front of us right now’ and Peru took care of us for the summer,” Jakiemiec said.

The entities came to an agreement to again offer free admission to the public for the 2022 season with intentions of both parties to work together in the coming seasons.

For the team’s loss of income from free admission, the agreement states four payments equaling $80,000 will be paid to the team. A total of $20,000 will be retained by the city of Peru as economic incentive, that will then be paid to the team following an agreement for the 2023 season or a long-term deal.

“When I came back into town, it just felt so comfortable and so good,” Jakiemiec said. “I went to the field and I knew there were holes in the ground but I wanted to see the field. It brought back a lot of good memories and also a lot of good energy about what’s going to happen down the road.”

Jakiemiec said the team wasn’t able to find a location to play until March of this year before landing in Peru. Although many of the players on the team came from around the country, such as California and Michigan, many of them said they enjoyed their summer stay.

“The players had a wonderful time,” Jakiemiec said. “An absolutely wonderful time when they figured out they can wear their Pistol Shrimp practice jersey and get a free coffee when they go around town. Those are the kind of things that stick with the young men’s minds.”

Jakiemiec said he was grateful to not only the city of Peru but also to the entire Illinois Valley region that welcomed the Pistol Shrimp with open arms.

“Summer ball is more than just putting up numbers on a baseball field, it’s how we are doing in the community,” Jakiemiec said. “Those are the things that I remember. I asked our photographer to take a lot of pictures not just of the action on the field but the interaction of the players with fans.”

Jakiemiec said he was encouraged by the fan support at Veterans Park. One time that really stood out to Jakiemiec was the support of the young children in attendance, many times in which the team played on the road when children would leave by the fifth or sixth inning.

During Pistol Shrimp home games, the team regularly has seen 50 to 60 kids stick around to the end to get autographs from the players and have a chance to run the bases.

“(General Manger June Keeley) and my mission statement is, we want our club to be a mesh point for the community,” Jakiemiec said. “So the community can come around to a nice, fun baseball entertainment and hopefully a competitive baseball game and I think we laid the groundwork last summer.”

As the team heads toward its third season in existence, this will be the first time the Pistol Shrimp will be playing their home games at the same location in consecutive years.

The Pistol Shrimp’s first year was played at Benedictine University in Lisle before the following year was canceled because of COVID-19. Now, after signing its second agreement with the city of Peru, the team wants be around for the long haul.

“My expectation is that we’ll be here for the third year and for the 13th year,” Jakiemiec said.

Now the team is set for the upcoming season the work will begin behind-the-scenes as the team will begin planning promotions and other fan experiences.

“We’re smiling from ear-to-ear knowing that we’re coming back,” Jakiemiec said. “But also, we are coming back knowing that we have so much more time to do things right and get the right sponsor packages and fan experience where we are not scrambling to solve just the problem in front of us.”

The team will be able to begin working on various theme and promotional nights to create unique fan experiences. With many more months to plan, the team hopes to have events bigger and better when it welcomes back fans.

Peru Mayor Ken Kolowksi said after the new conference that the city was excited to have the team back for another season and he loves what it has brought to residents of Peru and the surrounding communities.

“We love it,” Kolowski said. “I think it was a great addition to our city just to see that many people up there. The one thing I took away from last year when I went to the games was the kids. They were everywhere. They were on their bikes, they were conversing, they were hanging out. I didn’t see them on their cellphones. They were running and chasing foul balls and getting something to eat. It had that old-time feeling and energy to the park.”

Director of Parks, Recreation and Special Events Adam Thorson also said the team averaged an estimated 600 to 700 visitors to the ballpark for each home game in 2021.