Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

July 12, 2014

It’s really hard to beat fun at the good old ballpark

BLUEFIELD — It could not have been a more perfect night for baseball at Bowen Field.

In fact, in my very biased opinion, it is always a perfect night for baseball in that venerable ballpark that has been around since before World War II.

It's too bad more people don't experience it, unless it's fireworks night.

There are few activities I enjoy more than sitting in the Bowen Field bleachers, seats that, if I remember right at this late hour, were once at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, and watch a baseball game.

It is just a special place, and not just because of the baseball taking place on the diamond below. There are times I would just like to go there and sit and stare, relaxing in the notion that all is well in the world.

The same goes for Hunnicutt Field in Princeton. No, it doesn't have the ambiance surrounding it that Bowen does, but that's because of where it is.

Bowen Field is in a park, surrounded by lush green trees. Hunnicutt Field is in a parking lot on school grounds, with all kinds of activities taking place around it, but it's still baseball and a chance to enjoy a nine-inning vacation from the world.

Both are perfect outlets, and both have what matters most to me, a baseball diamond.

There is little more pleasing or appealing to my four eyes (I wear contact lenses) than a perfectly manicured baseball diamond. I admire what Mike White does at Bluefield and what Mick Bayle does in Princeton, always making those fields look so perfect, no matter what the conditions.

I can still remember my first steps into Riverfront Stadium all those years ago to see my first major league game. It was an incredibile scene, to look down and see a baseball diamond that was as beautiful any sight I have ever seen.

Bowen Field, and Hunnicutt too, provide me mini-versions of that memory every time I go there. I often wish there were more than just 34 games apiece that each team will play during the summer so I can go more often.

The only time I find myself being selfish when it comes to devising a schedule is trying to give myself as many baseball games as possible to attend.

Football, basketball, most of the other sports are fun, but baseball is the best.

My favorite seat at either park isn't in the press box.

Hunnicutt's press box is usually too full, and Bowen's has room at times, but I want to be the seats.

My spot at Bowen are the bleachers nearest to the first base dugout, about halfway up and on the end. It requries me to walk from one end of the bleachers to the other, passing up plenty of choice and normally empty seats along the way, but that is my place and that is where I want to be.

Why? Sit there with me one evening as the sun is going down and you will you know. There are times when I actually miss what happens on the field, having been mesmerized at times by what is in front of me.

It's not that I am being anti-social or stuck up, as I have heard at times. It is simply my place, where I am most comfortable, and it's my release. If anything is bothering me, the job or anything at all, I can forget all about it while looking at the scene below.

It works. When my cat, Sneezer, died last summer, the nearest baseball game was in Pulaski so I drove to Calfee Park _ which has actually been around longer than Bowen Field _ and was able to relax and try to deal with the pain in my own way.

True, most of the time I am working, but going to be a baseball game really isn't work. If I wasn't working, that is where I would be.

It is just the game, the atmosphere, the surroundings, it is my favorite part of this job.

At Bowen, there is even more to see. Take a look at the mountain of green trees in the background, and find yourself getting lost in thought. There have been so many times when I had completely missed what happened on the field because I would be so transfixed by the scenary before me.

There can't be many places more beautiful than to stare at those lush green trees. Sit where I sit and you can see why.

It was even more special on Friday night when a stunning full moon rose above and settled just above the trees, looking down like a scout checking out the players below.

Nights like that are when I wish the game would never end, although I know it must, with interviews to do and deadlines to meet.

Too often I have the area where I sit to myself. Unless it is fireworks nights, the bleachers are mostly empty, waiting for someone to pull up a chair and check out the game.

On this night the place was packed for a change. Sometimes I wish every night could be fireworks night.

The announced attendance was 2,089, and it might have been accurate. Fireworks always seem to bring the largest crowds, and the rest of the time there are plenty of seats for everyone.

Too often the attendance that is recorded wasn't actually the number of folks there.

If you go by the recorded attendance, Bluefield is doing pretty well this year, averaging 977 fans through 13 home games. Princeton, however, is the lowest in the league with 755 in eight games. That should improve with the Mercer Cup this weekend, and let's hope it does.

It's sad, but the West Virginia Miners in Beckley draw better than the Blue Jays or Rays. Is that a better baseball community or what is the problem?

Earlier this week there was a poll question in this publication that asked how many Appalachian League games our readers had been to this season. Most had been to none, and most weren't planning to go.

That is sad. Of course, if you will notice, all the poll questions are answered that way around here. Sometimes I wonder if some of the voters ever leave their homes.

Some don't like baseball, but you don't have to like the sport to have a good time at Bowen or Hunnicutt. I go to both and watch and see folks who barely watch the game, but still have a good time, meeting with friends, watching the kids play between innings, and possibly even cheer a home run or a good play in the field. There is also hot dogs, nachos to eat,and mascots to watch.  

It takes less than three hours, it's a bargain on the wallet, and it provides a break from the 'real' world that surrounds us every day.

Mercer County is blessed to have not one, but two minor league baseball teams. Yet, so many folks never take the time to see a game. We always hear how little there is to do around here, but give it a chance.

Baseball has been called a nine-inning vacation, and it really is.

For nine innings, you can find your place, sit back and relax, forget about whatever is going on in your life for a few hours and let the world pass by. If you are lucky, it might go more than nine innings.

 Yeah, and check out those trees at Bowen Field too.

You will want to go back.

— Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at / Twitter @bdtwoodson

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