Baseball on the Radio

Last night I listened to a baseball game on the “radio.”

Radio goes in quotes. It was Internet streaming audio, but for all intents and purposes, it was a radio broadcast, complete with ads for local business.

With the COVID pandemic raging unchecked across the United States, most baseball leagues have cancelled their seasons. Major League Baseball will begin “spring training 2.0” for a shortened season. A few college and amateur leages are making a go of it as well; close to me, the Maryland Collegiate Baseball League’s season begins week after next.

I feel there’s a great deal of magical thinking involved in this, especially if leagues and teams allow crowds; you can take all the precautions in the world, but this virus finds a way. People gather, someone doesn’t know they’re infected, the virus spreads, and there’s an outbreak. I’m skeptical of Major League Baseball’s season reaching the end of August, let alone playing through to the end of the season and the postseason, for that very reason.

I thought about this as I listened to the Broadway Bruins take on the Clover Hill Bucks at Buck Bowman Field in Clover Hill, Virginia on opening day in the Rockingham County Baseball League. By listening to this game, was I contributing to and encouraging a situation where people would put themselves in a position where they could be infected with COVID-19? Was listening to the game moral?

I don’t have a good answer to that.

Clover Hill and Broadway are perennial contenders in the Rockingham County Baseball League, an amateur league that has played since 1924. I’ve never attended a game in that league, I didn’t even know about the league until a few years ago, but I did know one of the league’s former ballparks: Ruritan Park, the field of the now-defunct Linville Patriots, was situated behind the elementary school I attended, Linville-Edom. It’s been a good thirty-five years since I’ve seen it, but I still vaguely remember it.

Crowd in the grandstand, Buck Bowman Field, Clover Hill, VA, June 27, 2020
The crowd at Buck Bowman Field in Clover Hill, Virginia, in the grandstand on the Rockingham County Baseball League’s 2020 Opening Night. Photo by WHSV’s T.J. Eck, via Twitter.

Clover Hill’s ballpark, from what I saw on Twitter last night, is vintage. Quirky, full of character, the kind of place that you’d find in small towns across the country before World War II. Stumptown in the Green Grass League might have played in a place like this. So too might the Lake Wobegon Whippets. It’s a place where I could imagine sitting in the bleachers along the baselines, eat a hot dog or two, have a beer in a plastic up, and spend a lovely summer evening. That I wouldn’t know any of the players wouldn’t lessen the enjoyment.

But, right now? In the midst of a pandemic? Would I feel safe around others? Would I be comfortable potentially risking the lives of others around me?

I don’t know. I barely like going to the grocery store right now for essentials because I feel like I’m risking other people’s lives.

Clover Hill and Broadway, lined up on the baselines for the Star-Spangled Banner
Clover Hill (first base side, right) and Broadway (third base side, left), lined up on the baselines for the Star-Spangled Banner on the Rockingham County Baseball League’s 2020 Opening Night. Photo via Instagram.

The presentation of the game last night was professional. The sound quality, frankly, was better than some minor league games I’ve listened to over the years — and I’ve listened to a lot. (I have the MiLB schedule bookmarked at work, so I can stream games during the day when I work, even if it’s two random teams in the South Atlantic League.) And the broadcasters called a good game, if occasionally sparse; they didn’t always paint the picture of what was happening on the field, but it sufficed. Overall, I enjoyed it, and it was nice to have a live baseball game on the “radio.”

Clover Hill won 6-4. The game was scorless through the first six innings. Broadway put three runs on the board in the top of seventh, Clover Hill answered with a three-run home run in the bottom half of the inning, and then tacked on three more on a home run in the bottom half of the eighth. Broadway scored one in the top of the ninth and put the tying run on first with two out, but the final batter went down on strikes.

Crowd along the first base line, Buck Bowman Field, Clover Hill, VA, June 27, 2020
The crowd at Buck Bowman Field in Clover Hill, Virginia, stretches along the right field line on the Rockingham County Baseball League’s 2020 Opening Night. Photo by WHSV’s T.J. Eck, via Twitter.

Would I listen to more games this summer in the Rockingham County Baseball League? Yes.

Would I feel weird about doing so? Also yes.

These are weird times. They will be weird for some time to come.

Stay safe, players and fans of the Rockingham County Baseball League.

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