With major league baseball now several days into the playoffs and the affiliated minor league season finished about three weeks ago, the independent Atlantic League is still playing on; their regular season ends this weekend. I’d thought about attending one more game, but York is finishing the season on the road (and work deadlines prevented me from attending the series against West Virginia mid-week), so I bought a ticket Friday afternoon for the Lancaster game against the High Point Rockers (of High Point, North Carolina) Saturday night.
Of the game, there’s very little to say. It was one of those games where it felt like neither team wanted to win — Lancaster had a rough season and was eliminated from the postseason long ago, High Point is, I believe, on their way to the playoffs and had nothing to play for. The most dramatic moments came the top of the fourth inning. With a 3-1 lead, High Point had the bases loaded and no outs. Quincy Latimore, formerly of the Harrisburg Senators (2014) and Bowie Baysox (2015), stepped to the plate and popped out on the infield. (The infield fly rule was called, so it didn’t matter that the shortstop, standing on the infield dirt, ended up dropping the ball.) The batter that followed Latimore grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. High Point could have broken the game open, didn’t, and then Lancaster chipped away at the lead, tying the game in, if I recall correctly, the seventh inning. But High Point plated a run in the top of the ninth and Lancaster went down in order in the bottom half of the inning.
It was a cool autumn night, mostly overcast though with some impressive cloud formations early on, and this was, I believe, the first time all year I’d worn a hoodie to a game. I took it off before the game, then put it back on around the fifth inning. I wore Harrisburg Senators gear — the hoodie and the baseball cap — which I wouldn’t do in York (I’ve had bad experiences when doing so), but I’ve seen enough people wearing “the Curly H” in Lancaster this year that the animosity towards the Senators, who don’t even play in the same league as York and Lancaster, that I’ve experienced in York doesn’t appear to exist.
The announced crowd was over 3,400, but people started leaving early, as early as the third inning, and by the time the game ended about 9:30 the remaining attendance stood about half of the announced crowd. Post-game fireworks probably influenced those who remained.
Rare for me, I bought two beers. Two! The first, I don’t recall what it was, was fine. The second, the Desperate Times Fall Spice Ale, was exquisite. I’ll have to see if I can buy that somewhere near York. If not, a visit to the brewery in Carlisle will be in order.
The drive home from Lancaster was uneventful, save for the rain squall as I crossed the Susquehanna River. Lancaster isn’t far though it feels far in my head — it’s closer to me than work — but, it feels less far than it used to. The trip to Lancaster feels longer than the return trip. Will I make monthly treks to the Barnes & Noble on Fruitville Pike as I did twenty years ago when I lived in Chester County? Maybe not. But it’s not the all-day trip it once seemed.
On that note, the 2021 baseball season has ended for me. Eighteen games (or was it nineteen?) in Harrisburg, five in Lancaster, three in York, one in Lynchburg. Even a Harrisonburg Turks summer college game in July when I visited my parents for the first time in nearly two years. (Thanks, COVID.) I didn’t make it to a Nationals game or an Orioles game this year, and deadlines precluded my idle thought of attending the Congressional Baseball Game (which is something I’ve wanted to do and never have) in DC.
What will next year look like? Who can say? For now, let’s reflect on the words of A. Bartlett Giamatti:
It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone.