It’s back – town baseball

By: 
John Mueller

OK, we’ve just enjoyed the wimpiest winter in recent memory. It came after a brutal winter the previous year, a winter reminiscent of the early-1980s. It chased us from the country into town.

We had two, maybe three snowfalls worth noting this winter. We didn’t even have to endure the mid-January cold snaps folks always seem to be surprised by even though they are the stuff calendars can be set by. The point is, this is a bonus spring. Sure, it’s been a bit damp of late, but that’ll help our friends on the farm and help the lawns green up.

Sunday afternoon in Union Hill, a sure sign of spring was out in full force when the Veseli Warriors made the trek to The Hill to face the Bulldogs. What a glorious blend of sights, sounds and smells it was, the crack of the bat, the snap of a baseball into the leather pocket of a glove, the smell of meat on a grill, fresh-cut grass, an umpire signaling the pitch was the third strike, the PA guy announcing the next batter, teammates congratulating one another after questioning whether the base runner was really safe on a tag play. Town baseball is back.

It’s a glorious reminder that despite the chill in the air, summer is on the way and anticipation for town ball games bringing community members together is in play. Friends reconnect after a long winter while their team competes against the team from a nearby town. The beauty of town ball games is the blend of friendly competitiveness set amidst some of the nicest little ballparks around.

There is a recognition the teams are manned by two kinds of players, the young guys playing summer baseball while still in college and the former standouts who still enjoy playing for the local team. Fans will watch the boys play throughout the summer, enjoying the wins and shaking off the setbacks all the while wondering if their team its capable of a later-summer run to the state tournament. It’s an affordable outing for a family. People understand these are not professionals making an ungodly amount of money, but rather players who enjoy the game enough to keep playing.

They take care of the yard between games, dutifully maintaining it as a symbol of community pride. State tournaments are a chance for small towns to show off their ballparks and community pride. Teams make improvements in their parks as they are financially able. In June, a local TV station will bring its town baseball traveling circus to showcase the Orioles. The team will put its best foot forward for a broader audience. Two summers from now, New Prague will once again host state tournament games. Between now and then, the work toward adding some comfortable seating and creating the lush infield grass will be planned and enacted. The improvements from the 2018 state tournament are still in place.

No doubt NP will be ready and Memorial Park will be looking sharp when the state’s top teams come to town.

Having undergone a significant amount of work a few years back when the Orioles hosted a state tournament, Memorial Park is a nice ballpark. Hundreds of volunteer hours and a big investment have made it the envy of towns unable to muster the volunteerism this area enjoys.

We’ve all visited and seen area ballparks towns revel in as a source of pride, the improvements at St. Patrick’s ball field, Irish Yard in Green Isle, Fredrickson Field and “The Fish Bowl” in Elko New Market, Tiger Park in Belle Plaine, Fritz Field in Cologne. There are those types of jewels in this area. A trip to Union Hill is one of many examples of the small town parks to be visited this summer.

Any time there’s a ball game, it’s worth the trip.

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