-James Earl Jones as Terence Mann in Field of Dreams.
The Barnstormers began this season on the road and got off to a slow start. Then, a couple weeks ago, they had their home opener at Clipper Magazine Stadium, and won. They needed the home crowd to get them back on track. Last week, my friend John came for a visit and we went to two games. The Stormers won both games and got hot. They went back on the road and continued winning. Today, they are in first place in the Atlantic League.
We have some attractions in Lancaster that can get my friends from New York to drive 180 miles for a visit, but a Barnstormer game is, by far, the best draw. It’s Minor League Baseball, so don’t expect to see any pitchers throwing 100 mph fast balls. As a matter of fact, we have one submarine pitcher who barely throws half that fast. Don’t expect to see towering shots that travel 450 feet, either. Most of the homers are down the right field line, which is only 300 feet from home plate. Do expect to have fun, though.
There’s one sure thing about minor league baseball. Anything can happen. Almost all the players are hopeful of someday making it to the Majors, but only a few ever do. Most of them have a good bit of talent, but not quite enough to play in the Big Leagues. Blake Gailen is the all-time Barnstormer homerun hitter, but he’s only 5’9”. When the wind is blowing toward right field, he has the power to knock one out of the ballpark, but most of his homerun shots would be fly outs in a Major League park.
To be a big leaguer you have to be able to hit, throw, catch, and run. Most of the guys I watch can only do 2 or 3 of those things well. That’s what makes the game exciting, though. Knowing that the opposition is less than perfect challenges the team that’s batting to try to manufacture runs by taking more chances. They might try to stretch singles into doubles if an outfielder doesn’t have a very good arm. This leads to a lot of exciting plays at 2nd base. If a catcher doesn’t have a strong arm, more guys might be tempted to try to steal second, leading to more exciting plays at 2nd.
In the first game that John and I attended the Barnstormers were leading going into the 9th inning. The league leading Sugarland Skeeters had a man on second with one out. The batter hit a fly ball 400 feet into the deepest part of centerfield. The runner at second tagged up, so that he would advance whether the ball was caught or not. The Barnstormer centerfielder, to the surprise of everyone, made a tremendous catch crashing into the wall. As soon as the ball was caught, the man on second took off. He would make it to third easily, but he had no intention of stopping at third. He just kept on going and sprinted for home. The centerfielder relayed the ball to the shortstop, who threw the ball home an instant before the runner got there. The tag was made. The runner was out, and the game was over. An unusual double play. A very exciting finish.
Anything can happen in a minor league game, and that’s what makes them exciting. It also doesn’t hurt that you can get seats right behind home plate for less money than you would pay for parking at a major league stadium.
John and I have been friends for 47 years, and we both played softball on the telephone company team years ago. There are few things more pleasant than sitting in the sunshine for a few hours with an old friend, watching a ballgame, and laughing about old times.
Later that night we polished off some beer and watched the Kevin Costner movie, Field of Dreams. The DVD came with bonus features that included a discussion with Kevin Costner and baseball greats Johnny Bench, George Brett, and Bret Saberhagen. Just a couple guys talking baseball.
The next day’s game was “Play Hookie with the Barnstormers Day.” The game started at 11 a.m. and the stands were crowded with school kids. They weren’t really playing hookie, though, as they were mostly on group outings with their schools. We were surrounded by a couple thousand kids, and for a couple hours, we, too, were kids again, enjoying another ballgame. It helped that the Barnstormers won, again.
I’m glad that they have a minor league baseball team playing their games just 5 minutes from my apartment, and even more glad that I have some great friends, who will make the drive here to sit in the stands for a couple of hours to enjoy life, relive old memories, and be kids again.
“Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”
Peace & Love, and all of the above,