Wednesday, June 7, 2017

There Will Always Be Evansville

Evansville is one of the best places I've come across to watch a baseball game. It's a great, old-fashioned round stadium without a bad seat in the place and it just oozes baseball. In a world where almost all the affiliated teams have blackmailed some city into building them some version of "generic baseball field, AA", it's a treat to go root for the unaffiliated Otters in a unique field as they play baseball that actually counts for something other than "that player's good - next week he'll be gone." The Otters were last year's Frontier League champions and if they continue to play the way they did when I watched they'll have another shot.

My first thought of the game was that nobody was going to argue with the plate ump today. James Purnell was huge - a good head taller than most of the players. However, this did not necessarily work out well for him. What I failed to take into account is that most umps can take cover behind the catcher. Not this guy - he loomed over the catcher and, unfortunately for him, it was not a good night to be a big target.

The first thing that hit the ump was a wild pitch that bounced off the dirt next to the plate past the catcher and into the ump's *ahem* "inner thigh area." The ump, being a hell of a man, didn't go down, but as he stood there tottering the PA announcer called for the team doctor even before any of the trainers could get out to him. The ump shook it off and went back to calling 'em as he saw 'em. Then, about an inning later a high fast ball went over the catcher's mitt, over the catcher's head, and tagged the ump right in the face mask. Again, he didn't go down - how I don't know. I repeat, hell-of-a-man. Shortly thereafter, another high fast one eluded the catcher, but this time the ump tucked his head and the ball whizzed about an inch above. The poor guy stayed in his crouch, with his face looking down at the dirt, for about three seconds contemplating life before he shook it off and went back to calling the game (which he did pretty well). Needless to say, I was impressed.

As to the actual game itself, the Gateway Grizzlies scored first, but the first few innings were dominated by the Otters as they ran out to a 7-4 lead. But, in the top of the 8th, the Grizzlies rallied and tied it all. Then, pinch hitter Brandon Soat brought some life back to the Otters with a ground-rule double in the bottom of the 9th and second baseman smashed a walk-off homer to give the Otters a 9-7 victory. It was a perfect end to a really fun game.

If you're anywhere near Evansville, go watch the Otters. And when I say "near" remember that I live 6 hours away and I still try to get there once a year. So, I don't wanna hear any excuses. Frontier League ball is fun to watch and the games actually mean something in independent ball.