It’s the end of summer and the football teams are all having try outs from grade school on up to the professionals. Each year they go through the basics from putting on the pads and helmet to the essentials of blocking the opponent to running the plays that the coach’s worked on since last season. But, before you let football grip your heart and your mind and take up every Friday and Saturday night, stop looking forward to the upcoming season.
At the same time, the boys of baseball are nearing the end of the regular season and teams are preparing for post season play, while others are just looking forward to the year being over. These players also went through Spring training where they worked on the basics of running, catching, stretching, hitting and base stealing; just like they had done every year since they began playing the game.
Louisville has the Bats, the Cincinnati Reds Triple A farm team. They play all home games at Louisville Slugger Field and as of recent, they are in 1st place in their division. So, they will make the playoffs, or the hopes of the fans is that they will finish the season winning and go to the playoffs. For many of the players, they are hoping that they get called up to the majors and ride the Red’s team into the major league playoffs.
You could feel the excitement in the air as my wife, Pat, and I walked towards the ticket office just outside Slugger Field. If you arrive early, there is plenty of free parking around the stadium and all of the streets are lit and patrolled by police cars; so there is hardly any trouble while you are watching the game. The upper level seats cost $11 each and that was an increase of $5 from 10 years ago when we sat in a similar spot to watch the River Bats play ball. At that game I took photos and they have been hanging on the wall of my office ever since. We’ve been to games since then and I’ve taken photos at all of them, but tonight I wanted some new photos for a new photo spread for the office wall.
Before going to our upper level seats, we bought a foot long hot dog, a big pretzel and some Nachos; and also some ice cold soft drinks, to not only wash the food down but to help keep us cool on the 90+ degree night. In our seats, we ate our food and watched the teams warm up. To the players it is so routine and vital to them not pulling a muscle; and to the fans watching, they looked like ballet artists.
The game for me I know is really two teams playing each other; but I love watching the battle between the batter and the pitcher. It’s the coming together of two separate and strong wills and the battle is fun to watch. Will the batter take the pitch or will he let it pass? If accepted, will it be swung on and missed, hit as a foul ball or will the batter connect for an hit, a double or a homerun? So many possibilities and if one slips on one of the basics that was worked on over and over in Spring training, will the other take advantage of the situation?
After 6 innings, the game wasn’t close. The Syracuse Chiefs were up 5 to 1 and their pitcher who had Tommy Johns Surgery last year, really had his bionic arm working tonight. He was too much for the Bats batters and they had one run to show for their efforts. My wife wanted to walk around and being the good husband that I am, I obliged her.
If you go to the game at Slugger Field, I recommend walking around the ballpark. There are no locked gates, no rules that are enforced unless you upset someone, but you can stop and sit anywhere in the park and enjoy the game from 360 degrees around the stadium. We stopped behind home plate where you can hear the umpire call "Ball!", "Strike!" and "Your Out!!" From down by 1st base we not only saw the pitcher and the batter from a good angle, but we saw a play at 1st base that I question was an error on the umpire. But, then they’re always right. Also, from this view we saw the sky change a range of pastel colors as the sun began to set. From the outfield, the bridges from Louisville to Southern Indiana were a spectacular contrast to the setting sun. also in the outfield there is a children’s play area complete with a Merry-Go-Round. And if you get hungry, you can watch the game from the outfield and enjoy it with a hotdog from the concession stands out there. In left field there is a grassy slope, where you can sit on the grass or lean back to enjoy the game and daze at the sky.
Slugger Field was packed that night and with the Bats being in first place it helps in filling the stands. But, even when the team was in last place and the summer was coming to an end and there was no hope for the team or any of the players to be called up, the fans still turn out. I ask "Why?" Plan on going to one of the remaining home games before the boys of football have their time and you too will discover the magic in the game of baseball. You too will find yourself slowing down and being drawn into the battle of the pitcher and the batter and all the worries, the fears of the week, of the future will evaporate at the call from the umpire behind home plate as he yells out "Play ball!"