Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Thursday night, May 17.
Over the last few days I’ve mentioned the rain we’ve had in this part of the country going back to last weekend. I hoped the NCAA Division 3 baseball playoff that was due to start this morning would be blessed with good weather. There are 8 regional sites around the country. In two of them, the New England and Mid-Atlantic region cities the rain continued into this morning. The promoters had more resources to work with than they had when I began following college baseball in 1979. Back then, an entire day could be rained out, even an entire 3-day weekend. They just waited for good weather where the tournament was being played. Today, with 4 games scheduled in each of the 2 affected regions, the promoters went to Plan B. In the Mid-Atlantic region where my alma mater Rowan was playing, two games were moved from York, PA. to a community college in Bel Air, Maryland, some 40 miles away. This wouldn’t have bothered the players I’ve known. They didn’t care where the team bus took them, they just wanted to play. But consider the player’s families who may have come a long way to see them play, settled down in York, then were told that at least one day of the tournament would be played in Maryland. Before the invention of the GPS, a move like that might cause a run on gas station maps. As it turned out, Rowan remained in York and started their game at 7 PM, instead of the scheduled 1:15 time that was posted. As I write this I’m listening to the game, and it’s still raining. The umpires have them playing through it and it’s pretty clear the pitchers are having a time getting comfortable on the mound. Just when the pitchers seemed to be settling in, the fire alarm went off for no apparent reason. The field was cleared just in case, causing a delay of some 15 minutes. Coming off the delay Rowan put up 5 runs and now have an 8-0 lead.
In the other impacted region, Rowan’s rival Ramapo had been relegated to New England by dint of receiving an at-large bid instead of winning their conference tournament which Rowan did. the New England regional games should have been played in Harwich, Massachusetts. The field there remained unplayable, so the entire regional tournament was moved. Two games were played at U.Mass Boston, and two were played in Worcester. This is a particularly long way to move at short notice, some 120 miles from Point A to point B. The games in Boston required a drive of some 85 miles for fans who in all likelihood were unfamiliar with the area and dealing with bad weather as well. That being said, the titular host schools of the tournament did quite a bit of contingency planning so that a second or third ball park would be available if needed.
Once the dust settled and the games got underway, they provided their usual measure of excitement that makes this part of May my favorite time of the year. Marietta College was involved in the morning’s first game. Just after Christmas 1984, Jim Lucas and I made our first long road trip together and the destination was a basketball tournament in Marietta. In today’s game, Shenandoah College got the better of the Marietta Pioneers by a 3-2 score. Since Marietta didn’t win their first game of the double-elimination tournament, they have to play at 10 AM tomorrow if the weather holds. Their branch of the tournament is taking place in Adrian, Michigan.
The morning’s nuttiest game took place in Duluth, Minnesota at Wade Stadium. When we worked in St. Paul, Wade Stadium was the home of the Duluth-Superior Dukes. The stadium was a WPA project meant to put men to work during the Depression. When it opened in July, 1941 the plan was to put a roof over the press box the following winter. That plan was scrapped following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The war stopped the Northern League for a few years, and when it opened again nobody expressed a need for a roof to the press box. This was the stadium we went to from 1997–99.
Especially for college players with aluminum bats, the small dimensions of the old park made possible the event that took place this morning. Bethany Lutheran had a 12-8 lead over Concordia-Chicago as they went to the last of the 9th. Incredibly, the Concordia Cougars put up 5 runs to win, the last 2 on a wild pitch.
For one school it was business as usual. The College of New Jersey, known locally as TCNJ were able to play their game at the scheduled time and in the scheduled small town. The South regional takes place in Holly Springs, North Carolina. There, TCNJ took the measure of Alvernia College of Pennsylvania, 5–2. The worst part about that was the broadcast, which was unlistenable. It sounded like the broadcaster was in a studio getting the game action from LiveStats. There was no sound of people, no crack of the bat, no P.A. announcer introducing players as they stepped to the plate. Re-creations are nice if you’re trying to be old school, but an actual broadcast from a stadium shouldn’t sound like you’re in a studio. Two other teams familiar to me-Cortland and Ithaca-were involved in games today. The Ithica Bombers lost 5–1 to LaRoche in another game at Adrian, Michigan. Cortland, who once was a member of the New Jersey Athletic Conference with Rowan found themselves in an extra-inning tussle with Westfield State of Massachusetts. Cortland’s Red Dragons walked off, 5-4 on a passed ball in the 10th.
Major league baseball meantime produced a best and a worst for last night and this morning. The worst (which will make a lot of Red Sox fans grin) was that the Yankees had to spend the night at Dulles Airport in Washington. The weather was lousy and they were told their charter wouldn’t be taking off. Not a hotel room could be found in spite of all the Steinbrenner family’s money, so the Yanks had to spend the night like regular people, squatting at the airport. I’ve never done it, but my sister and her husband have. It isn’t something they enjoy remembering.
On the other side of the coin, the best news bulletin from MLB happened off the field. The Mets’ lefty specialist Jerry Blevins and his wife welcomed their new son Ellis Layne Blevins into the world early today. That tops hitting a walk-off grand slammer or pitching a perfect game. It must go beyond all ordinary things if Blevins, on sight of his son felt anything close to what I felt when I held my smallest niece for the first time. She was 5 days old and I hadn’t held such a small infant in more than a generation.