Last night, for my birthday, I went to my first baseball game in a year. The Carolina Mudcats, the local AA franchise, were hosting the Mississippi Braves.
The Braves won, 4-0.
The morning’s newspaper summed the game up thusly:
Jeff Francoeur had three hits and three RBIs as Mississippi ended Carolina’s unbeaten start to the second half Friday at Five County Stadium.
Braves starter Chuck James struck out 11 in six innings, raising his season total to 116 in 94 1/3 innings. Four Braves pitchers combined to fan 17 Mudcats.
Seventeen strikeouts. The Mudcats didn’t even threaten, not until the bottom of the ninth, with two outs. The Braves closer got a strike-out, then a force out at first on a grounder to short, and with two outs he loaded the bases on a walk and two bloop hits into the outfield.
Now things got interesting. I was seated right behind the Mudcats bullpen, and they sent a pitcher to warm up. With two outs. Maybe the Mudcats manager heard the kid in front of me, the one who kept yelling, over and over, “They’re going for a grand slam! They’re going for a grand slam!” Ah, the optimism of youth.
And so the game came down to James Shanks.
The count ran full, and Shanks fouled off one ball after another. But no, the “Mighty” Shanks struck out, and there was no joy in Zebulon.
It wasn’t a great game, but it was a perfect night for baseball. The weather was perfect. No mugginess, no overwhelming heat. A nice cool breeze blew in. The joy of minor league baseball comes from seeing all the inane little things they do between innings. Kids having a frozen tee-shirt contest. The mascot firing tee-shirts into the stands. The father/son wiffle ball contest. Goofy stuff.
The evening ended with fireworks.