Jim Jewell: The cycle of life and baseball

When you read this, I will be in Lebanon, but as I write, I’m in Texas.
Apr 29, 2014
Jim Jewell

AUSTIN

When you read this, I will be in Lebanon, but as I write, I’m in Texas. 

I began writing once again thinking about Grandmother Willow from Disney’s “Pocahontas” and the cycle of life. I kept struggling with integrating Sam’s seventh birthday party Saturday with the Lebanon High School’s class of 1962 70th birthday party next Saturday. 

I watched Sam play soccer and thought about my seventh year in Lebanon, playing baseball with Bill Simpson, Billy Cowan and others in Bob Padgett’s vacant field between our house and his on Castle Heights Avenue.

Later I watched Sam frolic with a dozen friends at Austin Park and Pizza, a huge amusement park for kids including go carts and bumper boats. My two daughters did their best to maintain some semblance of order while three grandparents sat back and smugly watched the chaos.

That evening, writing was difficult. The words just didn’t seem to sit right on the monitor screen.

Then Sunday, Lance Ellisor threw me back into another cycle: baseball. Lance has tickets for Round Rock Express baseball at Dell Diamond Park north of Austin, which he gave for six of our family to attend Express’ game against Memphis. 

I surmised the Memphis team would be the “Chicks,” their moniker when they played the Nashville Vols in Sulphur Dell. That was the Double-A Southern League of the not-so-politically correct years. Now Memphis is the “Redbirds.” I discovered the two teams are with the Nashville Sounds and the New Orleans Zephyrs in the Pacific Coast League American Southern Division.

We now have to be politically correct, but geographically, we can be completely off the mark, and it’s OK.

Lance’s seats are right behind the first base dugout. Sam and his parents went to the amusement center beyond right field for several innings. Maureen and Sarah retreated to the shade higher up. I sat in the sun. It seemed just right to me.

I have not been to the Sound’s Greer Stadium, but I have seen photos as well as artists’ renderings of the new Tennessee First Park. Both the old and the new Nashville parks and Dell Diamond are modern structures with perfect sod with base paths of flawless dirt, swept perfect again several times during the game. All are a far cry from Sulphur Dell with its rickey wood structure and angled roof over the seats. 

Surprising, the capacities of all the old and new parks are about the same.

The Redbird’s suffered a 6-2 loss to the home Express. I was pretty neutral, but leaned toward the St. Louis farm team. The Express is affiliated with the American League’s Texas Rangers, and I still don’t like the designated hitter allowed in the AL and all minor leagues.

As the team’s played on, I daydreamed, comparing the digs to Sulphur Dell. My father and I went to the earlier Dell (with a completely different meaning) a number of times. I also went to games with boyhood friends and way too many with new found friends at Vanderbilt.

Dell Diamond has a shaded porch beyond left field. Sulphur Dell’s left field was cavernous and included a steep incline at the base of the fence. The Round Rock field has a giant video screen with an electronic scoreboard in left center. Sulphur Dell’s huge wooden and manually-operated scoreboard jutted out onto left center field. Round Rock’s center field was the standard 400 feet from home plate. The other Dell’s center field distance beyond the jutting scoreboard was 421 feet.

Dell Diamond has green slopes in left below the scoreboard and between the right field fence and the amusement park. The Vol’s right field fence was only 262 feet from home plate, but the fence itself was almost 50 feet above home plate, including the 45-degree incline beginning only 224 feet from home.

I marveled at the resplendent green flat, symmetrical field while wishing the right fielder stood in the dirt worn spot on the Sulphur Dell’s incline where once Smead Jolley committed three errors on one play when he missed grounder going up the slope and again when it rolled back down, followed by a bad throw.

It wasn’t the same Saturday, but it was baseball, and just like our lives, baseball may change, but it also just keeps rolling along.

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@jimjewwell.com.

 

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