Taking some advice from the sadly late A. Bart Giamatti, I took a little time for Paradise last evening—aka Dehler Park on a Friday evening in June with the Scarlets and Royals playing each other.
Before the shadows started spreading across the outfield I stopped for a bratwurst—from Sheboygan of course—with a little ketchup and mustard, on my way to a seat in the shade. Got the usual catch in my throat as I stood at attention for The Star Spangled Banner.
This was the first time the two teams had played against each other this season. Last night, early in the season, with parents and grandparents and friends all watching, most of the players perhaps understandably looked a little ragged, though the pitchers, apart from a little wildness, looked fairly good, especially the big kid with the gigantic shoes who started for the Scarlets. He could be their #1 for this season.
When I say players I mean everybody that has a part on the stage of Dehler Park: coaches, umpires, fielders, pitchers, batters, bat boys, announcer, even the scorekeeper.
When I say they looked a little ragged I did not mean the umpires, at least for this game. For unknown reasons Billings has always been blessed with good umpires, on a par, for example, with the young guys just out of umpiring school that do the Pioneer League games. Of course, there were the usual minor changes in the strike zone including at least one high curve for strike three that was arguable, and which the guy behind the plate let both player and coach vent a little. Some close plays at home and first tested them more than a little and they came through pretty well. By the way, as we usually do for these games, we had three umpires, just like in the good old days of the National League. That way, the guy at third base doesn't get lulled into falling asleep.
So then, and this applies to both sides, in addition to the batters generally having their timing off, and only a small running game to speak of, the fielding left a good deal to be desired, though the scorekeeper joined in the need for improvement by calling a difficult sinking, slicing line drive which the Scarlet left fielder might have caught with more than usual skill or effort, an error, which scored two runs as the Royals came back from a 4-0 early advance by the Scarlets. It looked like a hit to me. But there were other misplays and attention deficits, sometimes brought to the attention of the embarrassed player by a very loud Royals coach.
It looks like bunting needs some work and defending against the bunt wouldn't be a bad idea either. Unfortunately for the Royals, the bottom of the 11th inning—no time limit in Paradise, is there?—started with a walk, always an ominous beginning. An average bunt saw the Royals pitcher slip on the dewy grass. Nobody out and men on first and second. Ian Byorth, making up for a failed bunt earlier, finally got one down which the pitcher hurried a little on the way to first base, which was covered by the second baseman a little too late, so it went off his glove and Justin Black scored from 2nd on the error, whose I'm not sure. Final score: 7-6 There are some good pictures and a little more description by Ryan Minch with more names than I can remember without a scorecard in the Saturday Gazette. Check it out.