For a college baseball player, it's a long year. Of course you love it, doing what you want to do, but it's still a long year. School starts in late August or early September. Besides enrolling and attending classes, there's fall ball. The college baseball season starts in late February, and runs into May. After that, many players sign up for summer ball--a trip, sometimes as far away as Cape Cod or Alaska, or even Marysville, California.
It's a working summer vacation, but for those who play for the Marysville Gold Sox, even when the season ends in August and it's time to go back to school just a couple of weeks later, with almost no time all year for rest away from the game, many don't want to leave.
The Gold Sox began their ninth collegiate season Thursday night. It was a chilly night, and a mesh of players from schools around the country gathered, most meeting their teammates for the first time, and then went out and played ball. This year's group of Gold Sox lost to the Redding Colt .45s 12-4 that night. It was the first time the Sox had lost a season opener. The team rebounded, and won Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights to take the four-game series.
Summer collegiate baseball is everywhere, but not the way the Gold Sox do it. The crowds for the first three games were each at 2000, including the franchise's first-ever rain-shortened game on Saturday. Not even in the prestigious Alaska League will you find crowds that big on a regular basis. The Gold Sox rival the Cape Cod League, and the Northwoods League in the Midwest for those kinds of crowds.
For a lot of the players, the Opening Night crowd was the largest they had ever played in front of. After the loss, the newspaper headline read "Knocked Their Sox Off". One player said he was upset by that, but also learned how much this area pays attention. For a few years, games were broadcast on local television one night a week, and all games are aired on local radio (I have been fortunate to be the team's broadcaster going into my tenth season).
If you ever get cynical about the sport, I urge you attend a Gold Sox game. The players want to be there, with only the goal of getting better. They are usually 19-22 years old, and become instant local celebrities. It doesn't go to their heads, though. Management and ownership won't let that happen. They pick guys that not only can play, but are of good character. There have been only a couple of minor disclipinary episodes over the years.
Fans enjoy it. It's like going to a minor league game. There are between-inning contests and games, and other activities. Several fireworks nights and baseball-related entertainment also are on the season calendar. For the locals, the season is quick--only 11 weeks. For the players, it's an exciting end to one long baseball year. Then it's back to wherever they came from, a couple weeks off, and back to school, and it starts all over again. But even the players know, this is the time of their lives, and it doesn't last forever.
Other stuff: It must no longer be in ESPN's contract to televise holiday baseball games. There was no nationally televised baseball on Memorial Day. Mid-afternoon on Monday, ESPN was showing lacrosse. Something is wrong with this picture...Crashing into the wall in the final turn of the Indy 500 with the lead? Really J.R. Hildebrand? An unbelievable finish to the centennial running... I'm more intrigued by the NHL Finals than the NBA Finals. If Vancouver beats Boston to win the Stanley Cup, it'll be like the Olympics all over again...Derek Jeter is less than 20 hits away now from 3000. I'm predicting June 24 in Cincinnati. If he waits a couple of days, he can do it at home against the Colorado Rockies. Is this good for interleague play?