Being a baseball fan in the biggest football powerhouse town
Imagine if any other collegiate sport played 35 home games, 56 regular season games? Or if any other major professional sports league played 162 regular season games, decided not to keep time on the field, and the person with the ball never scored? Baseball is such an endurance race. A cherished marathon where every footstep is articulated in jaw dropping statistical and artistic beauty.
For me, Turner Field and the Braves are too far away to become an in-person daily routine except on Fox Sports South (and these days it’s MLB Network with the Yankees in the east and the Dodgers in the west). To really fully understand the inner workings of baseball’s beauty this long season provides, it has to become commonplace, routine. Luckily, baseball’s depth provides so many outlets, in so many different leagues, nearly anyone can find a local team to support. I happen to live in one of the greatest college sports towns in the country, so my non-MLB team is of course the Auburn Tigers. But even the Biscuits are close-enough, maybe.
Today’s game marks the halfway point in the season and the long schedule is just starting to take on the look of a marathon. Jordan-Hare Stadium is always looming large in the background over it’s Plainsman Park neighbor. The huge majestic concrete pillars hibernating until fall with one reprieve in April, the A-Day Game, when 60,000 people come out to see us play ourselves. Jordan-Hare is always the giant in the room, the most powerful, with the most money, the biggest following, and a stadium that changes the landscape of our entire state 8 to 10 times a year.
Plainsman Park, however, providing 35 home games at prices the average person in Auburn can afford, offers something football can’t, accessibility.
On this particular day I am sitting, more like bathing, in the beautiful afternoon sunshine in the south in March. An almost-hot day at the park (did I mention it’s March), where the temperature says 69° but really feels more like 80–85° in the sun.
I had no time at all today to get the lineup and score the game as I normally would. My last meeting of the day ended about an hour ago, so there was just enough time to make it to the park and enjoy the setting. Scoring is but just one of the countless aspects that makes baseball unique, poetic. It offers any fan the opportunity to become part of the game being played, and can be done by nearly anyone. The ability to score the game is as much an art form as anything else in life, just as are the many combinations of Auburn Baseball uniforms these days, but scoring really helps to learn the intricacies of the game.
Today Auburn is wearing their home orange jersey and white pants and Coppin State is wearing an Auburn-blue like jersey with gray pants. It’s now 3:30 PM CT and unfortunately on this day pitcher Kevin Davis (#12) only completed 1 full inning and was taken out in the top of the 2nd with no outs. Coppin scored 1 run in the top of the first after he walked three batters, then walked another in the 2nd. Davis was replaced by Jakob Nixon (#8) with 2 men on base and no outs, both runners still accountable to Davis. Finally turning the inning over to Auburn’s offense in the bottom of the 2nd Blake Logan (#1) hit a 3 run homer over our green monster. The homer had to go at least 360′-370′ over the Bosox-like fence that has Bo Jackson’s panorama covering most of that left field wall padding.
This is one of these lazy day games where the sun is just warm enough, especially for this time of year, to allow for a relaxed crowd. Deborah is knitting, and it is quiet enough to clearly hear the sounds of the game, along with various conversations of people nearby.
There is still this one unfortunate state of college baseball affairs at play here. The batters address the pitcher with an aluminum bat, the only real significant travesty in college baseball. There are a handful of other minor indictments one can raise here but I won’t. Although the sound of the aluminum bat is not quite the same as the beauty of MLB wood, it still creates this unique echoing ripple off the green monster and athletic dorms over right field where most of the football players live.
Our world class heckler is here and attentive as always. His job is to make sure the pitcher for Coppin State (or any away team that arrives not expecting a thinking fan crowd) does not get away with anything, and ensures he is rattled as much as any away pitcher could be by a comedic post-Iraq drill Sargent. Our season ticket neighbor came today, along with the normal “retired” season ticket holders. A lady on the stairs walking up into our section came within perhaps an inch of getting beaned in the head with a foul ball, and did not even notice. It’s quite fascinating how someone can come that close to major injury and not even know it happened.
The crowd here couldn’t be more local, and the visitors have virtually no fans attending today other than players family. I love this crowd, and much of it has to do with baseball itself. They are as calm as the pace of the game. Middle class retirees mixed with University staff, and students with an excuse to skip class on a beautiful day. In other words, those who love baseball. It’s a microcosm of our Auburn community. A generally quiet, laid back, friendly southern town.
Top of the 5th inning now and Auburn seems to have this one well in hand. Coppin had to take their starting pitcher out after he was hit by a hard line drive in the ankle (they needed to take him out anyway). Auburn now has an 8–2 lead off 8 hits and 0 errors.
What a beautiful game.