There are very few things more boring than watching baseball on television. I don’t remember when I last bothered to watch a game. It is about as interesting as watching paint dry.
On the other hand, I love live baseball. There is something special about taking in a game on a hot summer afternoon, or a slightly cooler summer evening. The leisurely pace of the game, which makes watching it on television so painful, allows for it to become a social experience shared with friends. There is lots of time to talk.
I stopped following Major League Baseball (for the most part) when the corporate powers that be decided there should no longer be a team in Montreal. As someone who remembers the Montreal Expos’ first game and who cheered for the team through the good years and the bad, I took that personally. My love of baseball these days functions at a level, far below the Major Leagues.
A couple of nights ago I took in a home game for the Old Orchard Beach Surge. You’ve never heard of them, I know. Outside the players’ families very few people have. The Surge are as far from the major leagues as you can get and still be professional baseball. These are young men pursuing their dreams of stardom. Boston’s Fenway Park, one of America’s last great baseball stadiums, is only a two hour drive from Old Orchard Beach, but in baseball terms it might as well be on another planet. My guess would be that most, if not all of those playing for The Surge have gone just about as far as they can in baseball. They are professionals, but will never be major league players.
Which doesn’t mean that they aren’t having fun. And a night at The Ballpark is still very entertaining. (Yes, the stadium is called The Ballpark. Old Orchard is light years away from those communities where corporations pay to have playing fields named after them.) They didn’t announce the attendance when I was there, but it was certainly less than 200. The “crowd” seemed kind of invisible in a stadium that seats 6,000, a stadium built for the Cleveland Indians Triple-A farm team in 1984. (My memory had it being built for the Expos Triple-A team, but memory is a funny thing I guess – Wikipedia tells me I am wrong, again.) Maybe an Expos farm team would have been more successful – Old Orchard Beach is a vacation town, a hugely popular destination for people from Montreal. In 1984 you could have fit its entire population into The Ballpark – the team needed tourists as fans in order to be successful.
The Surge play in the North Country Baseball League, a newly formed independent circuit. Playoffs start tonight, and I am thinking about going to the game. Old Orchard finished last in the league this season, but still made the playoffs. It’s a four-team league, so everyone makes the playoffs I guess. And The Surge get to be host team. Also not a surprise: two of the four teams have no home stadium. While one of the teams was supposed to be a traveling team, playing all its games on the road, the Newburgh Newts were kicked out of their stadium when the rent check bounced. Not surprising when you only draw 20 fans a game. I’m not sure how the two homeless teams play against each other, but they did manage to finish the season in the top two spots. So much for home field advantage.
Today I celebrate the Old Orchard Beach Surge and all those athletes who are pursuing their dreams. They provide great entertainment without the superstar egos of Major Leaguers. I find that very refreshing.