Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Fastest Three Months of the Year

That was the fastest three months I've ever seen.  It flew by.

I am referring, of course, to the Centenary Gents baseball season which began February 8 and ended this past weekend.  Oh, there are a couple of playoff games left -- it's not completely over, but those games are in Texas.  The 2014 season at Shehee stadium is finished.

And I'm sad.  I miss them already.

There is nothing like baseball to herald in spring.  After the long, cold winter (and we had a few cold days down here in Shreveport!), and the endless dull gray skies, it is pure joy to walk into the baseball complex to bright green grass and the players warming up on the field.

Overzealous, perhaps, Steve and I showed up at a couple of those February games a little unprepared for the cold wind that left me frozen by the end of the ninth.  By the April 22 game the girls were all in shorts, tanks, and sandals soaking up the sun while others took shelter from the blazing sun under umbrellas.

The April 12 game against Austin College was blessed with perfect weather.  We had a mild 75 degrees and a mellow breeze that whistled gently as it blew through the protective netting above us. That was the first game where you could discern the scent of sunscreen in the air from the fans in the bleachers. Centenary won both games that day.

Steve and I started following the team last year after talking about it for ages.  We finally got around to going and have been hooked ever since.  For years I would sit on my deck or in my swing under the magnolia tree in the front yard and listen to the ping of bats as the team practiced.  Sometimes I could hear the music from the PA system as they practiced.  The stadium is within easy walking distance from my house, and we have indeed walked to a couple of games (not the cold ones).

Centenary was in a sort of growing year this year; they lost some good seniors last year and so there were several new players this year.  In fact, there were only three seniors on the roster this year.  They're three pretty good ones though:  first baseman Mark Martinez plays with all of his heart.  At 6'1" and 220 lbs., he's not the fastest runner on the team but when he connects with his bat, that ball just soars.  He's a dynamite first baseman and it will be odd seeing someone else at that position next year.  One of the highlights for me this year was when Mark hit a triple against Austin College; like I said, he's not the fastest runner on the team, and I think everyone in the stands was cheering for him as he breathlessly arrived safely at third.

Another senior saying goodbye this year is outfielder and sometime pitcher Nic Parrott.  We saw Nic sail a couple of beautiful homers this year.  Also leaving this year is pitcher Jake McFarland.  I hope they're all on to bright futures and take good memories of their time at Centenary with them.

Next season looks pretty good as Centenary retains many players from the current roster.  Assuming they all come back, and there are a few new recruits to replace the departing seniors, it should be an awesome team.  There was some great hitting this year and the pitchers have been fun to watch.  Very promising is sophomore pitcher Holden Novak:  he's a tall, lean, 6'4" and he prowls all over that mound as he prepares to take charge with his arsenal of pitches.  He's got a mean fast ball, and a great curve ball.  He's exciting to watch.

I'm also looking forward to watching Christian Sebastien (C-Bass) for one more year before he moves on.  He's a very powerful and athletic player who has no problem with his bats.  Outfielder Chris Jones is faster than lightening and he makes plays happen.  As a freshman, he plays with a great deal of confidence and he will steal a base if you don't watch him!

We've had a grand time watching "our boys" this year.  The fans are great and we've met some really nice people, most of whom seem surprised, and pleased, that we are just neighborhood riff-raff showing up to watch baseball.  "Who's your son?" we get asked all the time.  They're all our boys now.  (My daughter graduated from there, if that counts.)

And the dogs.  Oh my, the dogs.  There's the lady with the yellow retriever and the brindle boxer - beautiful dogs!  And Izzy!  (Izzie?), the wonder dog!  She's just precious.  There are dogs of all sizes that come out
with their owners to watch the game.  Most of them just go to sleep, some watch the other dogs, and some beg to retrieve the balls that sail overhead toward the snack bar or the drainage ditch.  Every time a ball fouls out of bounds by the batting cages you can hear a thunder of sneakered feet as little boys run with their gloves to get it first.

The students that come out to watch their friends play are first class.  A highlight of the season for me, and I still laugh about it, was the basketball team who comes out to support the baseball team.  The baseball team does the same for them, and there's a tradition of heckling the other team that goes on.  Sometimes, I guess, people get a little sensitive about their kids out there on the field, and on one occasion (team shall remain nameless!), some mamas got mad at the heckling.  I have to admit, it might have been a little far when our basketball players were ribbing one of the guys on the opposing team about being, well, vertically challenged.  "Hey!  You need some phone books to stand on while you bat?"  "Hey ump!  How can you call a strike - he's so short the strike zone is too small!"  "Do you need a Fisher Price bat?"  Yeah, it was pretty intense and there was some mama drama, but when the basketball team showed up the next day for Game 2 with a dry erase board depicting a ruler and a sign that said, "You must be this tall to bat," well, you had to be there.  But it was pretty funny.

I can't believe the season is done.  I have to wait until next year for my peanuts and diet Coke, kicked back in my seat behind home plate (did I mention it's absolutely free to get in?), listening to horrible country music during warm-ups and between innings.  Really, I can live the rest of my life without Joe Diffey's John Deere Greene, but then again, it now has a sort of soft spot in my heart.  You can occasionally hear a fan or two holler at the box when they play the same old songs.  Last week during an especially tense game against Trinity, the person doing music played Jason Aldean's See You When I See You and a girl turned around and yelled "Quit playing the depressing music!  We're trying to win a game here!"  It was pretty funny.  All in good fun.

Yes, the sights and sounds of Centenary Gents baseball is over for now.  It's been a wonderful season, and we'll be back next February.  With blankets.  And until then, I'll always think of you, Centenary, when I hear this one:

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