July 2022 View more

After minor-league stints that took him to Kentucky and Michigan, Batavia native Ben Allison returned home in 2018, pitching for the Chicago Dogs for a couple seasons. After some time off, he’s now playing even closer to where he grew up, as a member of the Kane County Cougars. This is the 29-year-old Batavia High School grad’s second year with the team, whose season runs through early September, with home games at Northwestern Medicine Field in Geneva. When he’s not on the field, Allison works for J.A. Air Center in Sugar Grove selling aircraft parts, and he is earning his flight instructor certification. 

Q: What are some of your earliest memories of playing baseball?
A: I was probably 3 or 4—ever since I could throw things. It was really my mom who got me into baseball. She would pitch me baseballs with a Wiffle bat with the huge barrel. I do remember I never played T-ball. I went right to coach-pitch with Batavia Youth Baseball, at probably 6 or 7.

Q: When did you start to focus on pitching? 
A: It was my first year with the 12U travel ball team, and I remember this day pretty vividly. The game was over at the Moose Lodge here in Batavia. They put me in for the last inning, and I threw nine pitches—nine strikes and struck out three of the hottest players, and we won the game. After that, I was hooked. I felt like I had a light shining down on me on the mound. I loved pitching, and I loved being the guy that was in control of the game.

Q: Is there a challenge or setback you can look back on as being formative to your career?
A: My junior year in college [at Belhaven University in Jackson, Missisippi], I was consistently [pitching] 81 to 85 miles per hour. But I broke my foot that winter of senior season. And here I am captain of the team, watching my team get better, in this boot for four weeks standing off to the sidelines. So I thought, I’m going to figure out a way to throw, even with this boot on. On Mondays, I’d start throwing long tosses from my knees. On Tuesdays, I’d throw a football, but standing up, and by the end of the four weeks, I had increased my throwing distance from 25 to 30 yards to close to 85 yards from my knees. And as soon as the doctor cleared me to take that boot off, I was pitching 94 miles per hour. It was something that I believed I could do that I never knew how to do.

Q: How does it feel to be playing baseball back home?
A: I grew up going to Cougars games, and it’s what sparked my interest in baseball in the first part of my life. I was in the Ozzie ’s Reading Club when I was in first grade. I can remember sitting in the stands when I was a young kid and looking down at the players and thinking: What do you have to do to be one of those guys? I’m that guy now—and I get to be that influence to kids now. 

Photo courtesy of Ben Repplinger