Sunday, September 6, 2015

Charlotte skyline

It's not that I'm on a mission to see every baseball park in America (there are worse ambitions, no doubt), but a couple of weeks ago when my friend, Larry Lyon, invited me to come down to Charlotte to catch a Charlotte Knights baseball game with him, I couldn't say no.

There are several reasons why. First off, Larry was my colleague at The Dispatch back in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. He was the sports editor, I was the sports writer, and together, we made a pretty damn good two-man sports staff.

Larry stayed at the paper for about 20 years, then made the decision to enter the ministry. I rarely saw him after that, much to my regret. We just went our separate ways, as friends often do.

Another reason why I wanted to go to the game is because I seem to be taking in at least one minor league baseball experience per year, and this season was running out. A lot of this has to do with the Civil War Round Table I attend. We make an annual reconnaissance to a random battlefield each spring, usually near a city (i.e. Chattanooga, Charleston, Richmond) that has a minor league team. Consequently, we've taken in the Lookouts, the RiverDogs and the Flying Squirrels over the years.

Thirdly, I like to drink beer and eat hot dogs at ballgames. I try not to miss an opportunity.

It's all great fun.

So last Thursday, I met Larry in Davidson, and together, we drove to BB&T Ballpark for a noontime "businessman's special."

The view of the Charlotte skyline was pretty impressive from our seats.
 The game was slated for a noontime start because that night, just a few blocks away, North Carolina and South Carolina were going to open the college football season at Bank of America Stadium at 6 p.m. Yikes. I had forgotten about that. That explained why the parking deck next to the ball field was charging $40 a pop. Yikes again.

We finally found a reasonable place to park about a mile away and made our way to the game.

I always get a feeling of sublime awe when I walk into a baseball stadium. There's nothing quite like that first glance of inviting green grass — a pasture within a city block — as you enter the gates. It just gets better when you find your seats and acclimate yourself to your own personal view of the playing field, wondering if you might have a chance to catch a foul ball.

I really liked BB&T Ballpark. The city's futuristic high-rise office buildings loom like stalagmites just beyond the outfield fence. It makes me wonder if a view like this isn't part of the homefield advantage, reminding visiting teams that an entire city is right out there ready to back the Knights, to smote your pitching staff and baffle your bats. Proceed at your own risk.

So there we were for the next three hours. We barely watched the game. Instead, we were mynah birds, or maybe magpies, chirping away about everything from the decline of the newspaper business to former associates to growing old to future plans.

The ball game was merely a backdrop. I do remember the Knights trailed the Durhan Bulls for much of the game. Somewhere around the bottom of the sixth (or was it the seventh?) inning, trailing 7-3, the Knights hit three home runs into the beckoning skyline and regained a lead they would not relinquish.

Larry and I left shortly after that rally, not only to beat the incoming football traffic, but get on with our day. It was wonderful.

We talked about doing this again sometime. I hope it doesn't take another 20 years.

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