In July, Minor League Baseball and Allegiant Air, the "Official Airline of Minor League Baseball," hosted the Allegiant Hometown Team sweepstakes to send one lucky fan to an MiLB game in his or her hometown and give him or her the opportunity to spend the day with Sean Casey, a former Major League Baseball player and three-time MLB All-Star.
On Aug. 25, Katie Normand attended the Louisville Bats game vs. the Indianapolis Indians in Louisville, Kentucky. As luck would have it, Normand and her family are some of Casey's biggest fans, which helped make this memorable experience nearly perfect for the new MiLB fan.
For her prize, the Cincinnati-area resident was awarded two travel vouchers, four tickets to a Louisville Bats game and given a tour of Louisville Slugger Field with her guests alongside Casey. She also received opportunities to visit the Bats' press box, watch batting practice from the field and throw out the first pitch, and take photographs with and receive autographs from Casey.
Minor League Baseball sat down with Normand to find out more about her experience as the sweepstakes winner and about her first MiLB game.
Minor League Baseball (MiLB): How did you hear about the Allegiant Hometown Team sweepstakes?
Katie Normand: My sister saw the sweepstakes on Instagram and sent it out to our whole family.
MiLB: Why did you decide to enter the sweepstakes?
KN: My family and I were always big Sean Casey fans growing up - so much so that we actually named our family dog Casey! So when I saw we could have the opportunity to meet Sean, we jumped on it. I also fly Allegiant a lot since one of my sisters lives in Austin, Texas, and Allegiant flies direct from CVG to AUS!
MiLB: What was your reaction when you were notified that you had won the sweepstakes?
KN: I had to read the email about five times before I could actually believe it. I was shocked!
MiLB: Who attended the game with you?
KN: I attended the game with my parents, Sue and Jeff Normand, my sister, Sara Cavalieri, and my fiance, Drew Fladung.
MiLB: How did you become such a big Sean Casey fan?
KN: Growing up a Cincinnati Reds fan, Sean Casey was always doing autograph signings and things around town that we would go to, and he was always extremely kind and friendly, so we loved going to his events and watching him play. He was a great role model for how to treat everyone on and off the field!
MiLB: Did meeting Sean Casey and getting to spend time with him live up to your expectations?
KN: Spending time with Sean Casey totally exceeded expectations. Even though we had met him briefly at the autograph signings so many years ago, I still couldn't believe what a nice guy he was. He shook the hand of every person we passed and happily took pictures with or signed autographs for anyone who asked. Part of me expected a big time MLB player to just do what was required of him and then bolt, but he really made us feel so special and important, watching most of the game with us and just chatting like we were old friends.
MiLB: Describe your experience at Louisville Slugger Field. What did you get to see? What concessions did you visit? Who did you meet throughout the day?
KN: We got to take a tour of the stadium and see the broadcasting booth, the field and dugouts, and the suites. We visited a variety of the concession stands and got all kinds of snacks like pizza, gyros, pretzels, hot dogs and my favorites: fried Oreos and funnel cake! We got to meet Sean Casey's team, the announcer Jim Kelch, and many of the Louisville [Bats] employees.
MiLB: How did it feel throwing out the first pitch?
KN: Throwing out the first pitch was a little intimidating! I had practiced a few throws in my backyard and measured the length, but standing up there on the mound made home plate look so much farther away. Plus, knowing I was throwing to a guy who had played in the Major Leagues, I felt like the pressure was on! But it was a really cool experience to say I got to throw the pitch from the mound and have Sean Casey catch it!
MiLB: How would you describe your day with the Louisville Bats?
KN: Overall, it was a really awesome day with the Bats! The stadium was great and seemed pretty new, the snacks were great, and it was a fun day of baseball that my whole family enjoyed.
MiLB: In your opinion, what makes Minor League Baseball games fun?
KN: I really enjoyed the intimate atmosphere of the Minor League game. The smaller stadium means there's really not a bad seat in the house; you're up close and personal with the action on the field. It also means smaller crowds so you don't have to fight for parking or stand in long lines, which makes it a really great family-friendly activity.
MiLB: What was the most unforgettable part of this entire experience for you?
KN: The most unforgettable experience for me was just getting to spend time with and get to know Sean Casey. He shared some really hilarious stories and has played with and for so many other great baseball legends that he told us all about. It was really cool to "reunite" with him after all these years. We brought our old photos with him from those autograph signings more than 15 years ago and got to share those with him which was really fun!