“A couple of guys from high school approached me and said hey, we have that itch to play baseball,” Joe Rusch said.

And just like that, the Central Illinois Champions League was formed… two 20 year old Dunlap baseball products, Joe Rusch and Ben Brown, came together to create the CICL, a league to give central Illinois players a chance to play baseball.

“It started of with just the idea of hey, lets just do some sandlot, lets play some ball this summer. And next thing we know, we are starting a full league,” Brown said.

46 players from age 17 to 24 formed the inaugural season of the CICL, which plays every weekend at Peoria High. Rusch is in charge of the finances, while Brown facilitated the jerseys for the league.

“Getting the insurance, the equipment, information from all the guys was quite the challenge,” Rusch said.

“Getting the jersey’s done for 50 guys is a lot of work to do. It is a lot of fun, but it is a lot of work,” Brown said.

The most important aspect of the league to Rusch and Brown, is how accepting the Peoria community has been.

“It’s awesome to see how much baseball is a part of this city. It’s a really awesome experience to be able to pioneer new baseball in Peoria,” Brown said.

With the league looking to double in size next summer, the Central Illinois Champions League looks to be a new home for players who are hungry for a local challenge.

“My hope for it long term is that, as long as there are people that want to play baseball, they are going to have a place to play. Everyone is having a blast, from the guys that have been playing their entire lives to the ones that are just starting this year,” Rusch said.