First, the good news. Good for the Catfish and their fans, anyway. The Catfish jumped out to an early lead and built on it throughout the night to post a 9-2 victory over the Greenville Bombers (Red Sox) and earn a split in the four-game series. It's also the first time the Catfish have had back-to-back wins this season.
There were smiles all around afterwards, both in the stands and on the field. Lots of young fans were lining up to get autographs of players after the game. The Catfish were more than happy to oblige.
And that's one of the things I like most about minor league baseball. The young fans can get close to the players. The look on a youngster's face when he walks away from a ballplayer, holding his signed bat, his autographed program, or an autographed baseball is priceless. Sometimes all the child knows is that a ballplayer signed it. Some know that they may have the next superstar's autograph.
For a kid to know that a ballplayer, one that runs out of the field and has people cheering for him, actually took the time to speak to him, to give his autograph, to make the child feel special ... that's one of the most satisfying feelings in the world.And minor league baseball is a great way to watch a child's eyes light up.
Another thing that's great about this level of baseball is when three or more youngsters try to get a chant going. "Here we go, Catfish, here we go!" (clap, clap) is a fun thing to hear. And when more join in, the smiles on the children's faces get bigger and bigger. And when they see adults in other parts of the stadium clapping along to their chant, they get louder. And if the team gets a basehit, or if on defense turn a double-play, the kids feel like they helped. And they'd be right.
Things like that are great to see, and at the prices of minor league baseball games, it's one of the best entertainment values anywhere. And that's what, to me anyway, makes minor league baseball such a good thing.
But, not everything is good. One of the sad things that happen on occasion happened today. One of the players on the Catfish team was sent back to extended spring training. B.J. Richmond wasn't in the lineup tonight, and another player was wearing his number.
Last weekend, when the Catfish were playing in Rome, the wife and I met B.J.'s parents, who are from North Carolina. They had driven down to Rome, Georgia to catch some of the games. They seem like some real nice people, and the wife really enjoyed talking to B.J's mother. She was very proud of her son, but mentioned how frustrated B.J. had been about his stuggles at the plate.
Thursday night, B.J. went 1-for-4, but that brought up his average to .103, which shows how much he had been struggling. Whether or not he was breaking out of a slump, I don't know. And, now, it doesn't matter. He'll be working at Vero Beach in extended spring training. I do hope to see him back in Columbus later in the year.
B.J.'s spot on the roster was filled by Ryan Russ, who moved down from Class A (advanced) Vero Beach (Florida State League). We look forward to seeing him shine with Columbus.
And I hate to end on a down note, but it really hurts to see a young man struggling to fulfill a dream. But, perhaps at extended spring training, he'll get the kinks worked out and display the talents he has.
That's one of good things about baseball. Tomorrow, it's a whole new ballgame. And you get to see another kid's eyes light up.