Before the world turned upside down back in December, and provided me with a few great stories but few good opportunities, my Brother-In-Law and one of my Nephews and I spoke of the new baseball team that was taking up residence here in the Capitol City of the Northern State.
The newest member of the Northwoods League; a conglomeration of teams from around an area stretching from Iowa to Michigan and up into the Great White North, which was named by contest as the Larks.
And of course, their playing field known as The Nest.
The three of us decided to participate in the form of Season Tickets; actually, Half-Season Tickets. The season begins in late May, and runs until the middle of August....the teams are made up of college students, the crème de la crème of the Collegiate Baseball World, and based upon the schedule (the Larks, for example, have one day off in June) they must feel that they died and went to baseball heaven.
So...we bought five seats for seventeen games (half the home games) behind home plate; and in that deal comes all the food we can eat. So, the Larks serve me dinner seventeen times this summer.
The first game was May 30, here at The Nest. It was a pitcher's battle, with each one playing well into the late innings; the Larks pitcher (ironically named Byrd), gave up two hits, no runs and fanned 10 before they pulled him in the 7th Inning....they have a very strict pitch-count rule, apparently.
The Larks tied the game 1-1 in the late innings, and in the bottom of the 9th, a line shot just down the left field line, just out of the reach of the diving fielder, gave the Larks the win, 2-1.
The joy that erupted out of that dugout was infectious; the crowd stood and roared, clapping and stamping their feet, voices going hoarse as the final ray of sunlight disappeared into the western prairie. Fireworks followed, filling the night sky with color and the crowd headed to the parking lot, in expectation of a successful summer.
They dropped the second game, and won the third. We attended the third game, and it was back and forth, finally decided in the 7th inning by wonderful heads-up base-running; two runs score on a wild pitch, allowing the bullpen to throw enough smoke to seal the deal.
As of today, the team is 2-2, and playing tonight in a small town in Minnesota. We attend again on Monday, and I may sending out more than is coming in, but by GOD I love this game.
And I especially love this game when it is played by young men that play simply for the love of it. 'Small-Ball' is the word: Dying Quails, Ground Balls With Eyes, the Hit and Run and the Stolen Base. And WOODEN BATS.
Runners on First and Third, One Out, One Run Down.....the infield is in and the count is full. The pitcher kicks; the world turns and the ball flies.
And the world holds its breath for the sound; the glorious sound.