|Northwest Arkansas, We May Have A Problemâ€¦|
Written by Rob Swift (Contact & Archive) on April 25, 2009
I came up with an idea about a month ago that, at the time, seemed like a reasonable proposal: I'd write a recurring column about Double A Baseball, specifically the Texas League.Â It's exactly 8.2 miles from where I live to Arvest Ballpark, home of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.Â The Naturals are the Double A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and 2009 is just the second year of their existence.
I presented the idea to Jonathan Leshanski, the owner of AtHomePlate.com and he signed off on it.Â Then I contacted the Naturals' P.R. Office and within two days I had a media pass for the 2009 season, thanks to John the intern.
Okay, no reason to panic right? This can't be that hard. If Paris Hilton can write an entire book based on virtually nothing, then surely I can write a column based on Minor League Baseball.
Okay, what do I write about?Â Pitching Match-ups, in-game analysis, game recaps?Â I can get that at minorleaguebaseball.com and probably a dozen other sites, which is probably a dozen more sites than I need in my life.Â How about prospect evaluations and scouting reports?Â No, Jim Callis' crew over at BaseballAmerica.com has the market cornered on that information.
The gates opened and I was still stumped. Maybe a walk around the park would help. As I was strolling along the left field concourse three parachutists appeared in the sky. Dave, an usher, told me that the one adorned with the American flag was carrying the game ball.Â He went on to say that he thinks the Naturals look pretty good this year; he got the job to keep himself busy since his wife passed away, but also to see as many games as he could.
Later in the game I still had nothing so I sat down in the "Lawn Seating" area just behind centerfield.Â Not many people were sitting there during the game so Eric Miller convinced his mother, Amy, to let him roll down the grassy hill.Â Eric, who is eight years old, proudly told me that this year he can "roll all the way down the hill without stopping." Last year he couldn't because he would get "really scared."Â Amy said she loves bringing him to the games because they provide a welcomed distraction. His father, Eric Sr., is still deployed to Iraq with his National Guard unit.Â "Big Eric" is due to return home in July.
As the game progressed to the bottom of the ninth inning I realize I am no closer to an idea for the column than some of these players are to making the major leagues.Â I also realized, though, that sometimes minor league baseball isn't really about the game at all.
For fans it may be an inexpensive but enjoyable night out with the family.Â For players, it might just be hanging on to something that brings them an unmatched feeling of joy.Â For the professional writers I met up in the press box, it might just be a job. Maybe, maybe not.
In the end, it was a great game, especially for a home opener.Â The Naturals won it 5-4 with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth and 5,469 fans got their money's worth.Â I met some nice people, saw a good game and got to experience the game in a way I never had before.Â This might not be so bad after all. The only problem is that I still need an idea for story.Â How about a box score?