Friday, March 19, 2010

I got a new thing for a new (old) baseball team

I'm making a new commitment tonight. I'm committing to the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville Cougars baseball team.

I drifted into a pregame interview on WSIE 88.7 FM this evening. WSIE is a jazz station hosted by the university, my third pick on the local radio dial, after Classic 99 and KDHX.

I expected jazz, but when I heard two people talking baseball, I had to soak in some of their dialogue, after this long hard winter, just to hear the old beloved lingo.

The radio guy was talking to the head coach of the baseball team. The coach sounded frank, not quite biting, about how his team is shaping up in the early spring. The radio guy asked good questions. I liked their rapport.

After the coach left us, hoping his starting pitching would give his team a chance to win, the radio guy started talking up the starting lineups. Immediately, I fell under the spell of baseball player names, which I consider a species of magical language.

I can read any box score from any team in any league from any era. I really can. Just the magic of the random names, and the satisfaction of matching fielding position to spot in the batting order. You know the variations, all those sleek leadoff shortstops, the squat backstops who bat eighth (just in front of the second baseman), the hulking corner outfielders and beef-fisted first basemen who clean up.

In the game tonight, SIUE at the Evansville (Indiana) Purple Aces -> I know, I know, I know; the Purple Aces! the fricking Purple Aces! -> there were two grand baseball player names in the starting lineups: a third baseman named Cody Thick, and a right-handed starting pitcher named Keegan Dennis.

Cody Thick, 3B !
Keegan Dennis, P !

Actually, now that I search to see who plays on which team, and if it was all really real, I see that third baseman is actually Cody Fick, not Thick, which - and I hadn't dreamt it was possible! - I like even better.

Cody Fick, 3B !
Keegan Dennis, P !

Both of these magical baseball player names happen to belong to the Purple Aces, the Indiana nine, but I don't mind. I'm following the Cougars, the hometown guys. After all, the next opposing team down the road will bring all new glorious additions to the alchemical literary tradition of the box score.

The SIUE Cougars are, by the way, very much my hometown team. I grew up one long grueling bike ride from the campus where these guys play ball. A big rangy lefthanded power-hitting first baseman cousin of mine used to play for them. Thanks to that connection, much SIUE baseball Cougar branded sportswear - typically threadbare from having been worn down by a power-hitting cousin of a first baseman - have adorned me.

So, play ball! I'm down with y'all. I'll be finding you on the radio, and here on my laptop (where the local boys just dropped one, 3-2, in extra innings; tough luck; but the starting pitching certainly did hang in there long enough to give the team a chance to win).

I really like the radio guy, Joe Pott, a working professional rather than a passionate campus amateur; though he does have passion. Pott reminds me a bit of my personal favorite baseball announcer (sorry, Cardinals fans): Gary Cohen, the voice of The New York Mets. I look forward to getting to know Joe Pott's game flow and combing through his broadcasts for nuggets of play-by-play lyricism.

Play by play only, at this point. He has no color commentator calling the games with him. Kind of restraining myself, at this point, from considering myself in tranining for a walk-on pro bono role as Joe Pott's color commentator.

And what is a thing for a baseball team without some trips to the park?

I am sure if I stick with this thing, I will go looking for some married/guy/with/child hall passes for weekend games (or perhaps packing the whole family for a budget good time - homegame tickets are in the $5-7 dollar range, as opposed to the $57 range).

But let's start with the easy part. I have negotiated Wednesday nights to myself after I make newspaper deadline. And the boys do have a few Wednesday night games under the lights on the schedule, all against "Saint Louis", which must be SLU.

Wednesday nights with the baseball Cougars

7 p.m. April 14, hosting Saint Louis on SIUE campus

7 p.m. April 28 at Saint Louis

7 p.m. May 12 against Saint Louis in Sauget

That there gig at SLU competes with a night of classical music at The Sheldon I had spec'd - there is so damn much to do in St. Louis! - what to do?


Dirty baseball picture from somebody's Flickr.

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