From Section 216 the breeze was from right to left and strong enough to make the flags beyond the center field fence stand straight out. After moderate temperatures during the day and the shadows pulling across the ballpark, that was enough wind to make short sleeves a bad choice for a 7:10 first pitch.
Then the drizzle began. Most of the night we were misted by raindrops so light that they looked like summer bugs dancing in the stadium lights.
None of that mattered when the Red Roc Rockets took the field with the Arkansas Travelers shortly after 7:00 PM CDT. Riley plays first base most of the time. He pitches a little, too. He took the field with the Travs’ first baseman Efren Navarro who wore jersey number 16. That was Riley’s number for the last three years. He changed it to 44 this year because his all-time favorite Traveler and now LA Angel Mike Napoli wears that number.
But Riley and Efren did have something in common besides playing first base. Both are left handed. I intended to watch Efren play the position to pick up some pointers for lefties playing first but I got caught up in the event and didn’t pay that much attention – which is unusual for me because I usually keep a scorecard and monitor every pitch as if I am a scout from the “bigs” looking for the next superstar to call up to Anaheim.
What I paid most attention to all night long was #44 for the Rockets. I never amounted to much in baseball but Riley is pretty good. I hope I am not living vicariously through my son like a lot of dads do. I love the game and Riley is good at it. Maybe I can keep it at that.
Riley wears his pants knee-high. That’s not how most players at any level do it these days but the baseball purist in me has rubbed off on my son. He looked natural standing on the fresh-cut infield grass with a man who will probably be in the Major Leagues within a couple of years. Two of the last three Travelers first basemen made it; maybe Efren will, too. And Riley has a brand new baseball with one autograph on it: Efren Navarro.
The game against the Tulsa Drillers started out on the sour side with the opponents getting a 3-0 lead in the second inning. But the Travs battled back to tie the game at 3-3 then let it slip away to 5-3 in the top of the 8th.
We didn’t see that because we left at 9:00 after 7 innings. That’s not like me, either. No matter what the event, I stay until it’s over. We are always the last to leave the movie theater because some bloopers may be coming up after the credits. I always stay at a concert until the last song is sung because I want to soak up the entire experience. I’m always the last to leave church because, well, it’s my job!
And I don’t leave a ballgame early. I’ve seen too many late-inning comebacks. I’ve seen too many great plays and I don’t want to miss another one. I can’t stand the thought of an incomplete scorecard. But I wasn’t keeping score. The wind and lack of sunshine and the constant presence of mist or drizzle made it reasonable to leave at 9:00 after 7 innings.
The score was tied 3-3. Another reason not to leave.
We flipped on the radio and found KARN 920 AM just in time to learn that the top of the 8th was over and the Drillers had pulled to a 5-3 lead. Nothing happened for the Travs in the bottom of the 8th. The Drillers could add nothing in the top of the 9th.
By this time we were close to home, which is far enough away from the AM station’s tower that we drove out of the range of the nighttime signal. By the time we got Riley into the shower and into bed the game was over. I pulled up travs.com and learned that those who stayed until the end saw a half-inning of hope that resulted in a victory.
The Bible says that those who stay true to the end will be saved. It says that those who put their hand to the plow then look back are not worthy to be called disciples. I wish I had stayed in Section 216, Row D, Seat 12 until the end with the Travs. I know I am staying to the end with Jesus.