06/16/05 — OPINION -- What a night, what a game

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OPINION -- What a night, what a game

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on June 16, 2005 1:46 PM

I had been to Wilson’s Fleming Stadium before.

Tuesday was real hot and steamy. The bugs were out. I had no repellent, because I haven’t been to Snow Hill yet this summer.

So, I had every intention of sitting in the cool, air conditioned press box just like I had done on many other occasions at various parks, including this one.

The folks up in the Fleming box are nice ... like to talk baseball. Good people.

Then, word came that the umpires were going to be late. I saw a colleague from the Wilson Daily Times, Paul Durham, so I wandered down to the field to shoot the breeze to kill some time during the delay.

I had every intention to get back up the press box. I even told Paul that’s where I would be watching the game.

“Yeah, I’ve got to take a few pictures,” he said. “But, I think I’ll be up there tonight eventually. It’s way too hot tonight.”

Well, Paul didn’t make it up to the box.

I’m not really sure why exactly, but I didn’t either.

I found myself sitting on the bench beside the Wayne County Post 11 dugout when lead-off man Jackson Massey stepped up to the plate for the first of seven plate appearances.

That’s right. Seven. In fact, 109 batters combined from both teams stepped into the box on Tuesday (I counted) ... compared to only 59 hitters in Post 11’s last home game on Sunday against Jacksonville.

This was a long one. Four-plus hours long. There were several times between innings where I thought about walking upstairs. Call it some sort of divine intervention by the baseball gods or just pure luck, but I’m grateful that I didn’t.

Tuesday’s marathon that eventually saw Wayne County claim a 19-15 win against Wilson was one of those games where sitting in the press box wouldn’t have done the experience justice.

It wasn’t all about just about being near the field, players and coaches for the action on the field. I’ve been in my fair share of dugouts and on sidelines before.

As far as the game went, I like good offense as much as the next guy, but I’m a bigger fan of good pitching and defense. Sitting through a 1-0 struggle is just fine for me on the average night — as a reporter or a fan.

Tuesday wasn’t average.

When I think back to last night, most of what I will remember had to do with seeing the change in emotion on the faces and in the actions of the players I was beside.

I heard it all.

The lows — “I can’t believe we are losing like this.”

The acceptance — “Well, at least we are hitting the ball tonight.”

The optimism — “We get a few runs this inning, we’re back in it.”

The passion — “Did you see how far Jes hit that ball!”

The finality — “That’s two right there,” signifying the game-ending double play and a Wayne County comeback win.

Mix all that with a plastic chicken swinging in the air and a bunch of superstitious, downright funny young athletes, and a night that eventually turned into a busy morning in the office on very little sleep seemed completely worth it.

Nah, I won’t be in the dugout or on a sideline for every game I cover just because of this night. I don’t think it would be as much of a treat if I did.

As I was leaving Fleming Stadium, also home to the N.C. Baseball Hall of Fame, Wayne County pitcher Adam Williams told me, “You better tell everybody you see and talk to about what happened tonight!”

Don’t worry Adam, I have been. Most give a “Wow!” Some are too busy to care, but well that’s life. You really needed to be there for the full four hours, five counting the delay, to really understand. Words, either spoken or written, sometimes aren’t enough.

One thing is for sure. The nearly 30 players, six coaches that participated in Tuesday’s game and their fans that stuck it out did care. And, they won’t ever forget that game — for the highs and the lows.

I won’t either. Thanks, fellas.