On the Road with the Phoenix

24 Apr

This weekend, I traveled to Williamsburg, Kentucky to watch the Cumberland University Phoenix play baseball against the University of the Cumberlands Patriots. For most of you, it is probably weird to see two universities with almost identical names. In fact, they used to have the same name until the one in Kentucky changed theirs. I guess we are older and got dibs on the naming rights.

This post is not about the names of universities. It is about spending time at the ballpark watching a baseball series. It is also about watching a legend at work.

Woody Hunt has been our head coach for thirty-seven seasons and has over 1,500 wins. That makes him the winningest active coach in NAIA baseball. He also has three national championships. Yes, baseball is our sport, and Coach Hunt is the reason.

Like a lot of people in this area, I have followed Cumberland baseball for years and have always wanted to sit in the dugout to see the action up close. This weekend, I got to do more than that. I spent the first game as the color commentator on the radio broadcast. When the computer malfunctioned, I had to do play-by-play for a while. To be honest, that kind of freaked me out.

During Saturday’s first game, I stayed glued to Coach Hunt. His pre-game speech fired me up. I was ready to go out there and play.

Watching him in the dugout was a great experience. He did not say much, but, when he did, it meant something. He talked strategy with his assistants and spoke sternly to the players when they needed it.

It has been a long time since I spent a weekend at the ballpark. I have written about my days growing up around professional softball – my dad’s team; the ballparks; and the players.

There is something about the smell of the grass and the dirt and of hamburgers being grilled.

There is something about the sound of cleats on concrete and the sound of bat hitting ball during batting practice.

There is something about the music of a prerecorded national anthem coming through the speakers.

There is a feeling in the air as a crisp morning turns into a hot day. Then, that hot day turns into a cool evening.

There is that special time when the lights come on as the sun is going down.

There is also the feeling of being around a team, a group of people who are going through the wins and losses together. When the game is over, they talk about the game at the nearest fast food restaurant and continue talking about it as they head to the hotel.

No, there is nothing quite like being at a ballpark and being part of a team. It is something that I spent a lot of years doing, and, this weekend, it felt good to be part of that atmosphere once again. Even if was just for a few days.

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