Last weekend I visited my parents in Lynchburg, Virginia. This had been in the planning since April, though the reason for the visit was rescheduled to three weeks earlier, which I couldn’t go, but I went anyway, and, when I was there, besides visiting a picturesque cemetery in the mountains, we took in a Lynchburg Hillcats baseball game.
The game fell on the 20th-anniversary of the 9-11 attacks on New York and Washington, and I said to my parents that I expected the game would be filled with “America, fuck yeah!” moments. There were a few, but they weren’t as overblown as I feared they would be.
Of the game itself, there’s little to say. Lynchburg this year is in the Low-A Southeast League (the successor to the South Atlantic League), a step down from their long history in the High-A Carolina League. They were playing their in-state rivals, the Salem Red Sox, and the size of the cheering section for the Red Sox on the first base side showed that a number of fans had made the hour drive across 460.
Lynchburg lost, if I remember correctly, though it hardly matters, 17-2, with eleven of the Red Sox runs coming in the top of the ninth. I think the PA announcer tempted the baseball gods when he called a Lynchburg triple in the fourth or fifth inning “the play of the game.”
For the Star-Spangled Banner, both teams lined up along the baseline. There was a moment of silence in memory of the lives lost on 9-11.
Lynchburg was also wearing a commemorative uniform. The only definitive thing is that it had an American flag on it. My mom and I disagreed over whether or not it also had the Twin Towers; she said yes, I said no. (Frankly, I think that would be tacky.)
I didn’t notice — though it’s obvious in the photos and you may already have groked to it — that Lynchburg had painted the New York skyline, complete with the World Trade Center, on the grass behind home plate. I didn’t notice it until the third inning.
The patriotic stuff. They were more restrained that I thought they’d be. There was a salute to First Responders early on, around the second inning, then a salute to former and active duty military personnel, complete with a playing of the Lee Greenwood song, after the fifth.
Then, in the seventh inning stretch, “God Bless America.”
The teams came out and took up places along the baseline. The PA announcer asked everyone to stand and remove their hats. When he said the magic words, “for a performance of ‘God Bless America,'” I sat back down and stared at my feet. The singer’s performance was fine. But I don’t stand for the song. It’s not the National Anthem. I’m not required to pay it any respect.
I did stand for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” which followed “God Bless America,” and that I belted out as though I were Pavarotti. Don’t ask why. It’s a thing. I’m weird that way.
The game was to be followed with fireworks, but scoring eleven runs in the top of the ninth takes a lot of time, so as soon as Salem recorded the last out to seal their victory and they were in the midst of happy handshakes on the infield, they cut the lights and the fireworks started.
The fireworks show was decent, if very low, and twice I thought it was done only for it to resume after a pause. Each time I thought it had reached the climax I started whistling the climax to the 1812 Overture, with its quote of “God Save the Tsar,” just because it amused me.
With this, the affiliated minor league season ended for me. It actually ends this weekend, but Harrisburg is playing in New Hampshire this weekend, and I suppose I could have gone to a game in Aberdeen today, but I went to a comic convention in Harrisburg instead.
There’s still a few weeks left to the Atlantic League season, though, and perhaps I’ll make it to one or two more games in York or Lancaster before the book is closed on baseball in 2021. We shall see.