With the Independent and Minor League Baseball regular seasons a month from closing, and the Northwoods League schedule roughly a week away from conclusion, we’ve hit the proverbial dog days of baseball across the Heartland. Few locales was this more evident than a steamy night in eastern South Dakota when two last place teams separated by just 85 miles did battle.
When the Indianapolis Indians marked 15 years of baseball at beautiful Victory Field in 2011, the running local commentary was that few believed the ballpark was that old due to its magnificent condition. While perhaps not as grandiose at the Triple-A stadium in downtown Circle City, Newman Outdoor Field, also in existence since 1996, could boast similar claims.
I was roughly two hours into a 12-hour drive from Minnesota to Oklahoma Monday when I heard the news Tony Gwynn died at age 54 after a courageous multi-year battle with salivary gland cancer. For safety reasons, I pulled off the road to collect myself, confirm it was true and commiserate with friends and family.
The St. Paul Saints predate their big-time friends across America’s chief river by nearly a century. This is actually the fourth incarnation of the franchise, beginning briefly during the Benjamin Harrison administration, then returning a decade later through 1899, followed by a 1915-60 run, ending just before the Washington Senators became the Minnesota Twins.
As a resident for nearly a year now, I realize Minnesota is a hockey state. However, baseball is surprisingly well-funded across the Land of 10,000 Lakes too. This is particularly validated when traveling back roads through small Minnesota communities that seem to encompass one hidden gem of a ballpark after another. Considering the harsh winters, the immaculate conditions of fields by May is also rather impressive.
A baseball icon died Wednesday night, as Don Zimmer, passed away at Day Care Alliance Hospital in Dunedin, Florida, where he’d been for roughly six weeks after undergoing heart valve surgery. A true lifer, who enjoyed every moment from age 18 through a remarkable 66 seasons in the professional game, Zimmer was most recently senior adviser for the Tampa Bay Rays.
I’ve watched precious little of the 2014 NBA playoffs, and I ignored the long regular season, but I’ll likely watch most of the NBA Finals — whenever it finally begins after yet another long lay off — because the two best teams will again do battle. Knowing this type of clash occurs most years though, why should fans watch an often formulaic and endless six weeks of playoffs when most can predict the championship participants by mid-April or earlier?