Baseball season opens tomorrow night.
Okay, the Major League season is underway. But the local minor league team, the Columbus Catfish, open their season tomorrow night.
And I'm ready.
The Catfish (Rays) host the Savannah Sand Gnats (Mets) tomorrow night at 7:00, to begin what is, in all likelihood, the final season of the Catfish. A guy from Up North, Art Solomon, has put in a bid to buy the Catfish. And he's trying to put a team in Bowling Green, KY, for 2009. So, after this year, no more Columbus Catfish.
Anyhow, I'm ready for baseball ... local baseball ... to start.
Hardly anyone around here goes to the games. The Catfish draw, on average, around 1,000 a game. But that includes some games where soldiers at Ft. Benning pack the stands. Crowds of a couple of hundred are common during the week.
Folks just don't care about baseball at the minor league level. At least, around here, they don't.
But they're missing out.
For example, check the Los Angeles Dodgers. They began their regular season with five rookies on their roster. One. Hiroki Kuroda, played in Japan for 10 years. The other four? They played for the Catfish.
Blake DeWitt, Chin-lung Hu, Ramon Troncoso and Delwyn Young all wore the uniform of the Catfish. (Actually, Young wore a South Georgia Waves uniform the year before the team changed its name to the Columbus Catfish.)
But that's not all.
Also on the Dodgers roster are pitchers Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton, plus outfielder Matt Kemp. All played for the Catfish. As well as Andy LaRoche and Tony Abreu, both on the DL.
That's over a third of the Dodgers roster. Former Catfish.
And that's just the home team.
The visitors bring plenty of talent, too.
You follow the Braves? Well, you should. Anyway, remember their first game? The one they lost to Washington on a 9th-inning homer by Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals? I got to see Zimmerman play when he was a member of the Sand Gnats.
Another Sand Gnat I got to see play? Ever heard of Eric Gagne? Saw him pitch for Savannah back in 1996.
But back to the Braves. Just look at their roster. Not all, but many of their players came up through the Braves farm system. And that means we got to see them when Rome (or, formerly, Macon) came to town.
And Rome comes to town 12 times this season.
So, for the opportunity to see some future Major League stars, there's no better place than Minor League Baseball.
And for just good, fun baseball? A place you can take the kids to have a good time in a safe, family atmosphere?
Take them out to the ball game.