Summer Ball: Adventures in Small Town America

Morris Kantor: Baseball at Night, 1934The announcer on the field is a round girl with a hell of a lot of charisma. Her name is Julie and she speaks like a comedian warming up a crowd with such vitality that one can’t help becoming emotionally invested in her mid-inning wares. This inning, the 6th, she calls forth two people garbed in Sumo wrestler body balloons who waddle to the sideline at her behest. She introduces them as Blue and Red, explains the rules of engagement (knock the opponent to the ground three times) and then she shouts, “ready, set, go!”

The 1,415 people at Joannes Stadium (I call it the Frog Pond) cheer as Red and Blue bang into each other until Blue hits the first base line and Red struts along the batter’s cage until the next round begins. After two more knock downs by Red, and one attempted escape by Blue, Julie announces Red the winner along with her booty of a free haircut and a hotdog at the concession stand.

We decided to come to a summer league baseball game today as it’s a nice way to spend the evening outdoors but away from spiders. The local team, the Green Bay Bullfrogs, are spanking the Lakeshore Chinooks after jumping out to an early thirteen point lead that they have had no problem clinging to. By most barometers this game could be labelled boring, but we’re having a blast. Perhaps it’s the $2 local hop ales, or the surely animal yet oddly unidentifiable mascots running around, or Julie’s mid-inning shenanigans, but everything about this game has a sense of charming ‘Small Town America’ to it.

The tickets are $5, and there are $2 local beers. When you tip the girls at the concession stand they ring a cowbell and shout for joy. The players are college baseball players who don’t get paid, but rather get put up by local families so the can spend the summer playing baseball and not working. We have become instant friends with our seated neighbor, a man who has brought out the family and cheers for the Bullfrogs as though they are playing in the 9th inning in the 7th game of the World Series against the Pirates. To my ultimate appreciation, there is a makeshift fair behind us which keeps the kids happy shooting wooden things and sliding down other things made of plastic. Each middle inning features some sort of entertainment run by Julie the announcer. There has been an air guitar contest (a blowout, really), children bowling down the Bullfrog players (who all fell) for an ice cream cone, toilet paper fights, Sumo wrestling, races on the base paths and a Karaoke contest between two Bullfrogs over a free steak dinner at a place called Jim’s.

The game started with the delivery of a 12-year-old on the back of a Harley Davidson, who got off the bike at home plate, picked up a guitar and played the National Anthem. He was then ridden out of the park on the same motorcycle as he waved the Queen’s wave with grungy dignity.

It’s the 8th inning now and the Bullfrog’s clean up hitter has hit a three-run homer, stretching the lead and as a result beer is a dollar cheaper for the next inning.

Good cheap beer, Sumo wrestling, baseball, cool breeze and no spiders – yep, no place I’d rather be tonight.

  1. #1 by Andy on July 19, 2012 - 5:25 pm

    Bill Bryson would be pleased.

Comments are closed.