From the press box, with nachos

Date Published: 
August 8, 2014

My column didn’t run last week. I wrote it. I submitted it. I never saw it in print.

Now before you get out the torches and pitchforks and gather the mob to angrily riot out front of the Coastal Point office, or do the modern-day equivalent of that (complain about it 140 characters at a time on Twitter) — don’t. I’m already as disappointed about it as Alec Baldwin is with the acting careers of Billy and the other Baldwin brother whose name I don’t know.

I knew that this would happen eventually, but how are you supposed to know where the edge is if you don’t go over every once and awhile? I guess for Tripple Overtime, and the Coastal Point, “Let’s talk about kids on leashes for a minute” is the edge, and a three-paragraph rant trying to incorporate that into a sports column is going over.

But that’s OK. Because this week is the Little League World Series at the Pyle Center in Roxana, and though the days have been long trying to put together our yearly “Homeplate” publication in addition to our weekly paper — I’ve spent the majority of those days watching softball from the press box and eating nachos. And hot dogs. Oh, and cheeseburgers. Pretty much all the food that you would normally eat only when you’re at the ball park, except right now, I am always at the ball park. (I can only hope that the Pyle Center never gets a liquor license.)

In fact, as I write this, I’m in the press box overlooking Bruce Layton Field (not to be confused with Bruce M. Layton Field) and eating nachos as a team all the way from the Philippines takes on a team from the only-close-by-comparison Montana.

As I alternate between trying to produce interesting content that might actually get printed this week, tallying stats and wiping off mustard on my shorts because I forgot to get napkins at the concession stand, I can’t help but be taken aback by how awesome the event is for our area.

It really sunk in for me when team Asia-Pacific lined up for their national anthem. They were looking beyond the fence towards the row of international flags with their hands proudly propped over their hearts as they sung in harmony.

As I, too, looked toward the flags, trying to figure out which one was theirs and whether or not, as an American, I should salute said flag during the national anthem of the Philippines (no, right?), I gave up on deciphering both answers and looked further beyond that fence to notice the cornfields behind them.

They reminded me that we were indeed still in Roxana, Del. Teams from as far as the Philippines and Poland and as close as Laurel, Seaford and Milford, ESPN, the Coastal Point — heck, probably even other local weeklies — were all here for the same reason: to watch some of the best Little League softball from around the world at a facility that has to be up there with some of the best Little League public complexes.

After spending the day here last week and interviewing longtime Lower Sussex Little League President Bruce Layton (yes, of Layton Field fame), I think I’m even more appreciative of it all. It took a lot of time, money and effort from a lot of people in the community and beyond to get this place built, and it still does to keep it going.

The result of it all has been something pretty special, though, and it’s easy to see from up in this press box. It’s easy to get lost in it all, though, too. Watching the pitcher from Puerto Rico throw a no-hitter from up here the other night I, again, almost forgot where I was — only to be reminded by the cheers from the Milford game over at Comiskey Park.

It’s only been a couple of days up here, but I’m already starting to feel pretty attached. I’m getting pretty used to the clink of the bats and the loudspeaker blaring in my ear. I’ve heard every dugout chant in the book.

I’m probably more concerned about high cholesterol from all the cheeseburgers I’m eating than I am about being taken out by a foul ball at this point — and I think I may even have a few verses of that Philippines national anthem memorized.

It’s got to be ball parks like these, surrounded by cornfields and secluded from cities, that inspire movies like “Field of Dreams,” and movie lines like “it’s hard not to get romantic about baseball.” Just look at me — I’m up in the press box watching the sun set wild streaks of orange and blue over outstretched cornfields and the darkening sky until the lights come on, trying not to get romantic about it right now.

When I’m finished my three-day stint here I’ll step back as ESPN begins coverage of the semi-finals and finals. They’ll bring their camera crews and their media trailers and their extra lights and essentially take over.

But I can only hope that they, too, develop an appreciation for the complex and the people who helped build it and bring this event here — the Bruce Laytons, the Martin Donovans, everyone who’s ever coached a team or called a game or donated time or money or effort built this place — and I will certainly be glad when the press box goes live on ESPN so, for a while, the rest of the world can see it, too.