MCCLENATHAN WILL ENJOY HIS LONGTIME PASSION AT NHRA SOFTBALL CLASSIC CHARITY GAME BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Nov. 8, 2008) -- Long before Cory McClenathan discovered his passion for speed and began driving the 300-plus-mph FRAM Top Fuel dragster for Don...
MCCLENATHAN WILL ENJOY HIS LONGTIME PASSION AT NHRA SOFTBALL CLASSIC CHARITY GAME
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Nov. 8, 2008) -- Long before Cory McClenathan discovered his passion for speed and began driving the 300-plus-mph FRAM Top Fuel dragster for Don Schumacher Racing in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, his attention was drawn to the baseball diamond, where, as a child, he spent much of his time enjoying one of this nation's favorite pastimes.
He will get a chance to play the game he loved as a Little Leaguer next Wednesday, Nov. 12, at the NHRA Softball Classic at Arrowhead Credit Union Park in San Bernardino, Calif., prior to the weekend's NHRA Finals, with all proceeds to benefit DRAW (Drag Racing Association for Women). He'll be part of Gary Scelzi's Superchargers team, which will face Antron Brown's Burndown Bombers. Each team is made up of professional NHRA racers.
"Growing up in La Habra, Calif., Little League baseball was my favorite sport, by far," said McClenathan, who has 30 national-event victories in 53 final rounds in his 17 seasons as a Top Fuel racer. "I was never into pee-wee football or anything like that. I started off playing t-ball at a very young age and continued on into Little League. I enjoyed it so much that I went from playing to becoming an umpire at 15 before I stated racing. I was able to be at the ball field and umpire games in addition to playing in them and I was able to see both sides of the sport and I learned to respect how difficult an umpire's job could be at times.
"I lived very close to Blake Field so I was able to walk across the street to the ball park. I did it until I was 17 and became interested in racing. It was a lot of fun. Back then I got paid 10 dollars a game to umpire and the cool thing was I got to hang out at the ball park, make a few bucks, and get a free lunch. It was all about the hot dogs and chips."
The most exciting part of playing baseball for the driver whose drag racing fans have dubbed him "Cory Mac" was the try-outs. "I'd go to the try-outs and I would rush home afterward and I wouldn't leave. I wouldn't go out and play or do anything. I'd sit at home all night in my living room waiting for that call from the coach to find out if I made the team.
"The tension was almost like being in the hunt for the Top Fuel championship. You knew what position you had tried out for and you didn't know where you were going to end up. All that you cared about was making that team. As a kid it was huge and for a long time I was convinced that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a professional baseball player. I remember those days being very important to me."
The competition on the ball field next Wednesday is expected to be as fierce as it is on an NHRA drag strip on any given weekend. "We want to win," declared McClenathan. "Any time time I play anything, from a board game to physical sports to drag racing, I want to win, period. I think it'll end up as a comical showdown more than anything else. We'll start off very serious and try to have a good time, but in reality we're trying to put on a show for the fans and everyone that comes to watch and we're looking forward to that. But if we can win at the same time that would be fantastic.
"If our antics and competitiveness can entertain the fans and help collect more money for a good cause, it will benefit everyone involved. It's an honor to be a part of it."
Arrowhead Credit Union Park is located at 280 S. E Street, San Bernardino, Calif., 92401. Gates open at 5 p.m., followed by an autograph session from 5-6 p.m., and first pitch at 7:30 p.m.