Jim Jewell: It was quite a Valentine’s...oops...sports weekend

Jim Jewell • Dec 17, 2015 at 5:59 PM

After this weekend, it appears I am not a good event scheduler. 

When Vanderbilt’s baseball schedule was published in autumn, Alan Hicks and I sought to resume our five-year tradition of attending the opening series on the West Coast. 

The tradition was interrupted last year when Long Beach State traveled to Nashville. So Alan and I determined we would ask numerous friends to join us for renewing our tradition.

We included our usual Vandy friends and spouses. We received a quasi-commitment from Alan’s brother Jim, a Conneticutt resident. He had joined us for one such season opening in San Diego in 2011. Cy Fraser from Orcas Island in Puget Sound and an Old Hickory native, signed up. Cy and his wife Julie are part of our contingent at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festivals in San Francisco.

Two other Vanderbilt classmates in Tennessee were invited. We asked Vandy enthusiasts and Lebanon friends, Eddie Callis and Mike Dixon to bring Brenda and Gloria.

Eddie and Mike demurred. Distance and other commitments blocked such travel. Other Tennessee possibilities had similar problems. Then Cy and Julie’s daughter Kaitlin required their presence in New York. Our last hope faded when Jim Hicks announced he would stay in the Northeast corner for the birth of his first grandson. Henry Broome Hicks was born last Thursday.

Finally, the death knell for the extravaganza clanged. Maren, Alan’s wife, had activities arise requiring her to remain in San Francisco. Maureen then decided a weekend watching baseball with two old men was not her cup of tea.

Undaunted, Alan and I pressed on. After all, it was a tradition.

As I began to pack Thursday night, it dawned the first day of our adventure coincided with Valentine’s Day. Maureen and I are not big Valentine Day celebrants. Still, it seemed a little callous to me to leave my bride for a baseball weekend on Valentine’s Day.

But I was not deterred.

Late Friday morning, I drove to meet Alan at our downtown hotel in Long Beach. I gathered him up, and we went out for a leisurely nine holes of golf at the “Little Rec” executive course in Long Beach’s Recreational Park, a wonderful expanse of athletic facilities, picnic areas, and open expanses for walking, running, and just enjoying.

Early that evening, we went to the opening of the main event. Vanderbilt was playing host Long Beach State. The school’s athletic teams carry the official moniker of “49ers.” However, the baseball team wears the more popular name of “Dirtbags.” It began with the 1949 team who had to fill the bags they used for bases with dirt, along with other duties of tending to the playing field. They have had a top baseball program for years, sending numerous players to the major leagues.

Vanderbilt, ranked in the top ten college teams in the country, swept the series. Alan and I attended all three games, 5-2, 6-0, and 6-2 wins for the Commodores. When we arrived at the first game, we discovered the Dirtbags colors were black and gold, just like Vandy’s. It made it interesting in figuring out who was who.

Blair Field, located in the Long Beach Recreation Park mentioned earlier is a 3700-seat baseball only stadium rivaling any college baseball stadium I’ve seen. It is a delightful, pleasant place to spend time watching baseball. Long Beach had highs of 75, 72, and 72 on the game days, and I wondered how little fun watching back in Nashville with temperatures in the 40s would have been. Vandy traveled well, about 30 percent of the crowds around 2500 were Commodore fans.

I kept comparing these games to other watching events, especially pro and college football and basketball. College baseball is different. It is a relaxed past time rather than some intense, even rabid fan experience in other sports. It is a nice way to spend an afternoon or evening. 

Of course, you can travel to Nashville for Vandy home games, but I would encourage you to take in some Cumberland games. It doesn’t require a matchup with college powerhouses for game to be good contests. Vanderbilt is one of the big dogs when it comes to baseball, but the Dirtbags played good solid baseball. It was enjoyable. That’s the nature of the sport.

So perhaps my scheduling wasn’t so bad after all.

Jim Jewell, a retired Navy commander lives in San Diego but was raised in Lebanon. His book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems, is now available through Author House, Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. Jim’s email is jim@jimjewell.com.

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