A ballpark in winter

Every few seconds, I hear it.

Most everything is quiet, except for the “clang” that I can’t quite find the source of, but is clearly some sort of metal object whacking a pole, maybe part of the assembly smacking a flagpole.

Whatever it is, it’s a long way from the crack of a bat.

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I don’t think it’s a “ping” anymore, but there won’t be much of the sound college baseball bats make these days here at LeLacheur Park in Lowell until the beginning of April. UMass-Lowell plays its first 27 games on the road, but even the beginning of April could be optimistic for a home game, given early spring weather in the Northeast.

The actual “crack” of wood on baseball starts the third week of June, when the Lowell Spinners open their season. Some of the players who will make up the Spinners’ roster will likely report to Red Sox spring training starting Feb. 11, perhaps aware but not certain they could end up here.

Others are in high school or college right now, not knowing that this ballpark and this town are part of their future.

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Even though snow has been relatively light this winter (as you read this, please knock on the nearest wood possible, on my behalf), a thin layer is visible on the field through the fence down the left field line.

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Equipment and promotional items look less like they’re stored and more like they were just left wherever once the fair left town. No one will be eating at the Home Plate BBQ for months, and the easiest way to buy souvenirs is probably online.

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So what am I doing here?

I’m here for a “Save the Spinners” meeting hosted by our congresswoman, Rep. Lori Trahan. The Spinners are one of the 42 teams that could lose their affiliations under a Major League Baseball proposal — as are the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Oregon, where I went to a game last summer — and the meeting with local leaders was a way to strategize ways to fight the plan.

The meeting is in the Spinners’ clubhouse — which is cool to see, even if it’s small — and I’m certainly not a business leader, nor a member of the media covering the event.

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I’m just there as a fan … a Yankees fan, no less, to support saving a team that used to pay local youth baseball organizations to eliminate teams called the Yankees from their leagues. I only went to my first Spinners game after emailing the owner to find out the program had been eliminated.

But I’m a baseball fan first, and if Trahan can help lead a group of Republicans and her fellow Democrats trying to, as she said, “keep the National Pastime, national,” the least I can do is come to an event.

A Yankees fan who supports saving a Red Sox affiliate? That’s bipartisanship if I ever saw it.

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I show up halfway through the hour-long meeting — the announcement I saw said it was going to start a half-hour later — and a fan or a heater behind me makes it hard to hear anything.

Most of what I can make out are the arguments you’d expect to hear — a way for families to enjoy baseball without having to pay Fenway Park prices (and that’s only if you live close enough to a Major League team), the jobs and businesses that come from having a team, baseball being part of the fabric of the city and community.

But one gentleman, identified here as businessman Jim Campanini, says something that really strikes me.

He cites the effort to save the Market Basket supermarket chain (an amazing story in itself) and says the team needs to get the people involved — a national petition drive, former minor leaguers, “not necessarily the players who later became big-league stars but the ones who were genuinely enriched by coming to Lowell.” (Quote from the article linked above.)

Jon and I are the same age and are friends from college. Jon isn’t a former pro ballplayer, but he was “enriched” as a little kid by the Glens Falls White Sox. I’m not a former pro, either, but for me, it was first by the Albany-Colonie A’s and then the Yankees.

He remembers Ron Kittle; I remember Mickey Tettleton being called up to Oakland. That could happen? He was just playing in Albany!?

How many kids have that kind of memory? How many kids will?

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The Spinners could disappear tomorrow, and I’d be able to satisfy my baseball jones. I only go to one or two games a year in Lowell, anyway, plus Manchester is just an hour away, and a team is coming to Worcester in 2021.

Portland is a short road trip that I need to make more often, and there’s a great ballpark in Hartford for when Suzi and I visit her parents.

Plus, we are fully grown adults with no children, so a ballgame in Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or wherever else we go isn’t out of the question.

But whether it’s a baseball team, an arts institution, a park or whatever else that enriches people’s lives, why would you take it away when you don’t have to?

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5 thoughts on “A ballpark in winter

  1. I think this is an awesome effort, I have to agree small towns need to save their affiliated baseball teams. I hope something changes to keep them, it be a shame to lose something so precious even though I’m not a big baseball fan, I still think it’s important.

    Liked by 1 person

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