2019 was Amazing! What about 2020?

Baseball opening day in our house is a major holiday. For opening day of the Major League season we decorate with baseball themed decorations, we eat brats and nachos, and we give our daughter opening day presents, all baseball related with a new item of clothing to support our favorite team. We get to watch MLB baseball on television and sometimes we sneak in for an early game either to see the Brewers or White Sox before we even have the chance to head to our hometown stadium, NelsonCorp Field, home of our Clinton Lumberkings. We wait and anticipate opening day for months. Each year we purchase our season tickets for our team here in Clinton and we stop by the stadium to say hey to the staff and feel the buzz of the beginning of the season to grab our tickets.

Last year was no different but the summer of 2019 went down in my book as one of the best baseball years of my life.   We attended so many baseball games and made so many memories with friends and family.

The season started off with my husband and I sending our only daughter off to basic training and for 10 weeks we had little to no contact with her. While she was at basic training I sent her lots of photos from the ballpark through a super cool app on my phone called SANDBOXX!!!

In that same month we were asked to host a Lumberking baseball player. We had never hosted a player before but had thought of it often.  It was Mother’s Day weekend. The team had just returned from a game in Bowling Green and there was a new pitcher who joined the team. I received a message from my neighbor Carolyn asking if we would consider hosting a player.  She and her husband were hosting two players already and did not have room for a third. My husband and I decided immediately that it would be something fun and a good distraction from our daughter at basic training. 

A few weeks later we welcomed a second player into our home. For my husband to have two young men in our house to talk baseball with was quite a fun thing to witness. You see, we have one daughter and while she and I LOVE baseball and know a ton about the game, it is not the same as sitting with two professional baseball players shooting the breeze and sharing opinions about the game. He was having the best summer.

These two amazing young men became members of our family last summer. We shared meals and our town with them. We wanted them to feel like Clinton was a home away from home.

I learned a lot more about baseball last summer listening to Cam & Tanner. Both of our players were pitchers. Cam a reliever and Tanner a starter. We learned just how hard the players worked and the long hours and days they endured. My favorite game of the year occurred on July 10th. Tanner, #12 was the starting pitcher, pitching 6 innings and Cam, #37 came in to relieve for the 7th & 8th innings and the Lumberkings beat the Lake County Captains!!!

2019 was amazing and per usual we went to as many Lumberkings games as we could. We watched them when they traveled to Kane County & the Quad Cities and even to Cedar Rapids when the Lumberkings were in the playoffs. 

Playoffs Cedar Rapids Kernels Stadium 2019 Photo Courtesy of Clinton Lumberkings

We loved being a host family and being a even bigger part of the baseball family. We have been waiting to see who needs a host family and the name of the baseball player we might get to host this year.

We were ready for 2020, a baseball season to possibly top last year.  We had plans to follow the Lumberkings to Beloit, WI opening weekend (April 9-11) against the Beloit Snappers. Then we were going to watch them in Burlington, IA for the Burlington Bees home opener (April 13). Finally we were so excited to have opening night baseball right here in Clinton, IA cheering on our Clinton Lumberkings(April 16).

Instead we sit here unsure of the future of baseball…. Heck… our country. But we know that as Americans we support one another, we help each other heal, and when we come out the other side of this we will be stronger. When this is over we will again all meet at the ball park, forming long lines around the block to get into the stadium. We won’t mind the wait, because as we wait we will catch up with our fellow baseball fans and bleacher buddies.

Keep the faith fellow baseball fans! Let us know what you loved most about the 2019 season! Comments welcome 🙂

Yours Truly, Angela Gabel

Coronavirus Helps Remind us Just How Important Sports Are at all Levels

We were just getting started on this yearlong journey to shed light on everything Minor League Baseball and small town America has to offer when the country and the entire world was all but shut down due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 or “COVID-19.”  Getting right to the point, I am not a doctor, I don’t know how long this health crisis will last, and I am not going to comment on what should or should not be happening by those in government. Taking those factors into consideration, we’ve decided that our goal here at Small Ball America is to continue to write these blogs and prepare for our journey this summer, whenever it takes place.  The reality is, “this too shall pass.” I am in no way being insensitive to the situation or trying to minimize it in any way, but there is not a lot that can be done other than following the guidelines set by those in government and doing our best to stay healthy. So, we will continue spreading our message as it pertains to the minor leagues and small town America, because eventually, life will get back to normal.  

As I write this, professional sports at every level have been shut down for the foreseeable future.  For that matter, most large gatherings of any kind have been shut down, cancelled, rescheduled, etc… Just considering my four plus decades on this earth, I can only think of perhaps two times when something this big has taken place and changed the perceived and actual normalcy of people’s everyday lives.  Those incidents would of course be the attacks of September 11th, and the Great Recession. There have been other, more localized events that have devastated communities, like Hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, and Sandy, as well as the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, just to name a few. These events shut down sports and changed the trajectory of some people’s lives, but those were more localized tragedies.  I cannot think of another time in our country’s history when sports, all sports, were shut down indefinitely with the intent to start back up at a time unknown to anyone. During times of tragedy, sports are one of the most important institutions Americans turn to in order to decompress and forget the problems of the day, if only for a few hours. That option doesn’t exist this time, and it may help people to remember and perhaps better understand the exceedingly important role sports play in all communities, regardless of size.

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Why Major League Baseball Needs its Minor League System… As Is

As we inch closer to the start of a new baseball season, the brass at Major League Baseball continue to negotiate a new working agreement with those in charge of Minor League Baseball.  That agreement will determine how the partnership between the two separate, but indelibly linked entities will work moving forward. Whatever deal they come to is likely to set precedent for future negotiations at the very least, if not reshape the entire concept of minor league baseball altogether.  

It’s no secret that MLB has proposed to do away with some forty-two affiliated franchises from their minor league ranks.  These teams would be rebranded or eliminated altogether. There is clearly a great deal at stake for the cities and towns that house these and all minor league baseball teams, but what is not being discussed by many in the media and certainly not the aforementioned MLB brass, is all that Major League Baseball would stand to lose if they choose to simply walk away from these minor league towns and cities.  

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