03 March 2013

Baseball season is here

Centenary vs. Dallas at Shehee Stadium.
I've lived in Shreveport since last August, but I had yet to take in a sporting event until today. Although the local minor-league baseball and hockey teams have folded within the last five years (bad timing!), the town has a lot of sports action - there's the Independence Bowl, Division III Centenary College, NAIA LSU-Shreveport, and a thriving high school scene. But I'm often out of town on weekends, and when I'm in town, family comes first.

Alone with our beagle on this beautiful Sunday afternoon, I decided to see if either college was playing baseball this afternoon, and in the end, our dog and I spent a fun afternoon at breezy Shehee Stadium, watching the Centenary Gents edge the University of Dallas 4-3 in the rubber game of a three-game SCAC series. Read on for a light-hearted look at the afternoon, complete with more photos:

Standing along either foul line is a good vantage point.
I won't detail the game too much, but as usual, it was great to see baseball in person again. Since it was a spur of the moment thing, I actually arrived after the top of the first inning, which meant I could not keep score of the game. I almost always keep score, and I love doing it, but it's kind of nice to take a game off once in a while. Especially if you've got a dog in tow, attending her first baseball game!
Pitching changes could not
keep my dog's attention.

There is no admission charge, but even so there were about 100 people there, and the quality of play was inconsistent. Yet I had a great time. Some of the game's unusual events included two successful pickoffs, repeated attempts at a fake-to-third-look-to-first move, and what seemed a very obvious make-up call at first base. I enjoyed hearing the Dallas coach yell, "That's not even a sign!" after a player apparently mis-read his third-base coach and tried to lay down a bunt. I enjoyed watching Centenary send three players after every foul ball that went out of play, as if hunting in packs made it safer. And I enjoyed picking up some of the players' personalities.

The Centenary catcher, Ryan Gaspora, stood out as my favorite player. He slugged a two-run homer from the left side in the bottom of the first, but I was entertained the rest of the game watching his furious head nods between every pitch, at the plate or behind it. Centenary righthander Cole Thompson stands 6-foot-6, but proved to have a kind of understated presence most of the day. He doesn't throw that hard, but he worked very quickly and kept the ball down. When he got a big strikeout to end the seventh inning and protect a 3-2 lead, however, he let out some emotion with a yell to his dugout.
Walk-off wins never get old.
The game saw Centenary tee off early and jump out to a 3-0 lead, but the Gents (the nickname grows on you, and yes, the women's teams are the Ladies) committed five errors and allowed Dallas to finally tie the game in the eighth inning. That only set the stage for the bottom of the ninth, when DH Jemari James, a senior from the Virgin Islands, led off by pulling an extra-base hit down the right-field line and into the corner. At 6-1, 220, he seemed to put all his effort into making it to third base as the ball bobbled around in the corner. When he reached third, he was putting his arms up in celebration when he heard a commotion from his own dugout. An ill-advised relay throw had carried over the third baseman and against the fence, and James raced home with the winning run, where he was mobbed by his teammates. He was later forced to endure a celebratory dousing from the water bucket.
Jemari Jones had an afternoon
to remember.

It doesn't have the pressure, pageantry, or skill of Division I, but Shehee Stadium made for a fun afternoon on Sunday. Baseball is back!

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