Life in the Minors
Remembering to appreciate what we have on the Fourth of July
The Fourth of July game each minor league season is always a big deal. I don't know if I've ever felt more American than I do playing the nation's favorite pastime on the birthday of our country. Over the years, I've had the fortune of being a part of some memorable games on the Fourth.
In 2001, as pitching coach for the Dubois County Dragons, we had fireworks both on and off the field to give our fans at League Stadium much reason for celebration. Playing the Springfield Capitals in a night game at home in Huntingburg, Ind., we had it all -- a bench-clearing brawl, a walk-off homer and a fireworks show after the game.
The brawl happened when our slugging left-fielder, Dustin Delucchi, legged out a triple to right field in the middle innings. Dustin popped up on his slide after narrowly beating the relay throw. The Capitals' third baseman took exception to Dustin's hard slide, and shoved him back down to the ground. Dustin responded with a stiff uppercut and before I knew it, the benches had cleared, and there was a brawl going on in the infield.
After a few minutes, the game resumed. By the time the ninth inning rolled around, we were in need of a home run to win it, and we got it.
This Fourth of July was a little more of a letdown on the field. After packing Bosse Field here in Evansville with 6,500 fans on Thursday, rainy weather and gloomy skies limited our turnout to just over 1,500 Friday for our 3 p.m. game against the Rockford Riverhawks.
The game had all the potential for a classic Fourth of July showdown. We had our big right-hander, former Toronto Blue Jays farmhand and Evansville native Adam Rogers, going on the mound in his hometown against the Riverhawks, who have always been a formidable foe.
As it turned out, the game was a hotly contested nail biter. Rogers had a very good outing, with just four hits and one run allowed over six innings. Unfortunately, we could not muster much offense either, and we lost 2-1 on a run-scoring double with two outs in the top of the ninth inning.
Needless to say, after the game I was not in the best of spirits. We've had our share of tight losses this season and losing our fourth straight home game surely did not sit well with me. But my fiancee and I had plans for after the game, so I had to pull myself together pretty quickly. After making a quick pit stop at the grocery store in front of our apartment, we made the short drive over to the home of John and Brenda Brazelton for a little Fourth of July barbecue. John and Brenda were my host parents during my playing days here in Evansville years ago, and are still as good to me as they've ever been.
By the time we made it out to the house, John and Brenda had already put together a great spread -- complete with pork steaks, cucumber salad, garden salad, potato salad, and some cold beers -- for the 12 of us who were there. Bobby Bell, our hitting coach, came over with his wife, Patrice, and daughter, Bobbi. Two players the Brazeltons were hosting for the season were there, as was their niece, Casie Williams, the assistant general manager of the Otters.
At 8:15 or so, we all packed up and made the short drive toward the Evansville riverfront to view the annual fireworks show downtown. Making the six-block stroll from the top of Main Street down to the water was a neat experience. Walking along the brick-laid road, we were able to see some classic architecture, as many of Evansville's old buildings in the area have been preserved for many years. By the time we got down to the riverfront, an estimated crowd of 50,000 people was already there, enjoying the festivities set up for the event.
Shortly after we found a spot to view the fireworks, the show began. For about 20 minutes, fireworks of all shapes, colors and sizes were fired off from the Kentucky side of the Ohio River as we all watched in amazement. Music ranging from the Indiana Jones theme song to "We're an American Band" by Grand Funk Railroad to Justin Timberlake blared from the loud speakers as the fireworks display moved in time to the tunes. As the show drew to a close, Ray Charles' "America the Beautiful" and John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" made their way onto the playlist.
As I took in all the sights and sounds, it made me think of the many Fourth of July holidays spent at the annual show at Schofield Barracks near our home in Wahiawa, where my mom and dad would take me and my brother Gavan to watch the entertainment and fireworks. I could not help but think of the sacrifices our country's military has made throughout the course of the history of our nation.
My brother has been in the Navy for years now, and will soon be leaving on another deployment, leaving behind his wife and two sons. I'm sure he thinks nothing of it, but it is the willingness of the many men and women like him who accept the call to duty each day that allows the rest of us to enjoy the quality of life we enjoy. In Hawaii, we are surrounded by heroic veterans of war, many of which are family members, neighbors and friends. I am grateful to each and every one of them.
By the time the show was over and we made our way back to John and Brenda's minivan, I felt more at ease about our tough run on the field. After all, it was the birthday of our great nation and I was being as American as I could be, working in minor league baseball, traveling the country by bus for another summer, and working this season in a town that was declared an "All-America City" by the National Civic League in '04.
Besides, I was able to enjoy it all with family and friends, and I really couldn't ask for much more than that.