Siri lies! It is much further from Albuquerque to Wichita than she says. That, and the added hour for crossing into the Central Time Zone made for a just slightly tardy arrival at Lawrence Dumont Stadium, where the Wichita Wingnuts (slogan – Go Nuts) play their home games.
The day’s journey highlighted a couple important points. First, most of us live in cities and don’t think much about how vast this country is, especially the West. There are great swathes that are simply uninhabited. To put it in technological terms, I’m confident that the majority of the miles I’ve covered are in areas without cell phone service.
Second, the last part of the trip re-affirmed the startling topographical fact – Kansas is flat! And windy! And though the Midwest is not uninhabited, most of the land is planted in crops, not people. Oh yes, and the corn is not yet as high as an elephant’s eye.
Speaking of Kansas, there were two interesting quirks. First, the main drag (US 54) through Liberal, Kansas, a small town on the Oklahoma border, is called Pancake Boulevard. I was unaware of the connection between liberals (what else could that name refer to?) and the beloved breakfast confection. Second, as I drove through Greensburg, Kansas, I was confronted with a sign that simply read “I’d Turn Back if I Were You.” (It advertised no product or service.). Clearly, the author of that warning is not a baseball fan.
And now, to the game. The Wingnuts played the Sioux Falls Canaries (both intimidating names, right?) on a warm but pleasant evening. Both are part of the American Association, an independent league with a long history of being all over the minor league map, from Triple A to non-existent.
The guys playing at this level are older than most minor leaguers on average, because they’ve been scuffling around for a good while. Some have been to the majors and didn’t last or got injured or traded or simply lost in the shuffle. They haven’t yet given up the dream, but we won’t see them in the Show again anytime soon. Their play was at times brilliant but on the whole sloppy and the 10-2 final score in favor of the Wingnuts illustrates the lack of defensive prowess.
The Nuts are managed by Pete Rose, Jr., whom I ordinarily wouldn’t pick on, but he has recently joined his (in)famous father in criticizing Ichiro as he approaches the 3000 hit mark. Some have mentioned that, if his hits in Japan were counted, he’d surpass Rose Sr. on the all-time hits list. Both Roses said that was ridiculous, and Ichiro diplomatically avoided the fight, but that didn’t make me like either Rose any better.
Some observations about Lawrence Dumont Stadium: its surface is entirely artificial (except for the pitcher’s mound), which makes a slide into second base more closely resemble a melee around the goal in a hockey game; its screen covers only the immediate area behind home – not even the dugout area is included; an ad by Wichita Railway Services for “Freight Car Parts” – who knew there’d be a market for those at the ballpark?
Finally, the bat boy/girl (though I have yet to see a bat girl on this trip). Sometimes mistakenly referred to as the ball boy (this is the term used in tennis), the bat boy deals with both balls and bats and plays an important function in keeping the game moving. Think about how much longer games would be if players and umpires had to do all that work of retrieving balls and bats.