The Game of Baseball requires patient study to fall in love with it, and I’ve been studying it for a long time.
For me (like many boys growing up), it begins with the tender and tense game of playing catch with your father – and spans years until you’re the one playing with your own children and grandchildren.
Those intervening decades found me collecting Topps baseball cards, deciphering box scores, playing on muddy fields, and praying that I’d actually catch the lazy fly ball.
Maybe it was the delicious smell of summertime, the rambling prattle of legendary Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince, or the spirited games of my youth that made me fall in love with the sport. I remember bouncing a rubber ball off the side of the house, chipping away the paint while re-enacting the diving catches of my heroes.
Baseball has always been an activity I can lose myself in … a game reckoned only in outs and not in time. Play the game right and you could stay forever young.
In the Carolinas, organized baseball has a long history. Many Carolina towns fielded local clubs beginning in the 19th century. Teams like the Charleston Seagulls and the Charlotte Hornets were early representatives of a sport that expanded to nearly 100 teams. Today, within the Allen Tate footprint, there are nine professional, minor league teams remaining. These teams are part of Major League Baseball’s “farm system,” where rookies strive to prove themselves and veterans rehab or retire.
My boy is grown now, but we still occasionally toss the ball around. And when I’m at a ballpark in the Carolinas, I’m still gleefully immersed in the only game that joins together the generations of fathers playing catch with sons.
If you’re keeping score, here are links to the nine minor league baseball parks within the Allen Tate footprint (Feel free to invite me to a game):
- BB&T Ballpark (Charlotte), Charlotte Knights ((AAA Affiliate of the Chicago White Sox))
- BB&T Ballpark (Winston-Salem), Winston-Salem Dash (Single A Advanced Affiliate of the Chicago White Sox)
- Burlington Athletic Stadium, Burlington Royals (Rookie Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals)
- CMC-NorthEast Stadium, Kannapolis Intimidators (Single A Affiliate of the Chicago White Sox)
- Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham Bulls (AAA Affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays)
- Five County Stadium, home of the Carolina Mudcats (Single A Advanced Affiliate of the Cleveland Indians)
- Fluor Field, Greenville (SC) Drive (Single A Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox)
- L.P. Frans, Hickory Crawdads (Single A Affiliate of the Texas Rangers)
- NewBridge Bank Park, Greensboro Grasshoppers (Single A Affiliate of the Miami Marlins)