Different Times, Different Places

The Wake Forest University baseball team played four games in Wilmington, NC this past weekend which made a nice little getaway for Elaine and me as we broadcast the games via the Internet.

“We” includes Elaine (my wife, the Big Boss) who keeps the scorebook, assists with stats, is the spotter and generally tracks down details of whatever crazy idea I get next.  Steve Shutt, the Associate Athletic Director for Communications at Wake Forest, very capably does play-by-play (# 2 boss) and Jay Garneau, Assistant Director of Communications (#3 boss) is re-cap writer, engineer, stat man and liaison with the other teams involved in the four-team tournament.

Please don’t ask me why one is “for” and one is “of”; I don’t know.  It’s the Communications business so it doesn’t have to make sense. But I will get Elaine on it!

I just talk about the games.

The weather, of course, made for an interesting, confusing and stay-on-your toes kind of weekend.  Tom Walter, the excellent WFU coach and even better person, managed to get in a makeup game on Wednesday after a rainout on Tuesday.  It meant an 8:00 a.m. bus to Wilmington for a 3:30 game, including a fast-food lunch and strap ’em on.  Oh, and study hall at night.

It turned out to be a pretty ugly loss, but the next day is where it got interesting.  Thursday there was no game scheduled but weather precluded going onto a field.  After a team breakfast, the bus left for an indoor facility for hitting and throwing along with a lot of stretching, and some outdoor running in 30 degree weather.  It was essentially a converted warehouse with batting cages and portable mounds, which any baseball family will tell you is pretty much the norm.

After a quick bite to eat the players traveled to another site for weight-lifting, a quick rest followed by dinner then a mandatory study hall for two hours from 9-11.  All in all, two pretty full days in a row.  And with more bad weather in the forecast, you knew it was going to be more hurry-up-and-wait for the rest of the weekend.

Elaine and I opted to do some sightseeing after batting practice, and after a lengthy perusal of the advertising rack in the hotel, decided on a tour of the USS North Carolina.

What a great choice!

On a self-conducted rambling tour, we spent over three hours wandering the mammoth ship marveling at the efficiency of space, amazing array of services and overall impressive compilation of man-made marvels that somehow stayed afloat.  The North Carolina is 729 feet in length, displaces 44,800 tons fully loaded including 15,000 tons of steel armor plate.  And it still managed a speed of 28 knots!

It would be easy to fill the rest of this space with interesting physical details, but it was the stories and people that got to me.  “Letters to home” were prominently displayed around the ship along with pictures and some videos.  And they were gut-wrenching.

It struck me that the 18-22 year old athletes we were traveling with could easily have been on that ship (which earned 15 battles stars all over the Pacific during World War II) in another era.  Except that according to some of the letters there were many sailors as young as 16!  Now I don’t know what you were doing when you were 16 but I know that I was not ready to be behind a 16-inch 45 caliber gun with enemy warplanes buzzing around me.

In fact, it is a recurring thought with me to wonder how I would have performed in combat.  I was fortunate to have missed the draft era, and obviously sports occupied most of my time then as well as now.  But while I like to think that some of the presence of mind  I displayed at various times during athletic contests would have transferred, I don’t know, and thankfully never will.

I do know that we should be eternally grateful to the men and women that served our country then and keep our freedom now.  Their sacrifices allow 30 special college athletes to follow their dream, and their contributions enabled us to enjoy what turned out to be, despite the weather, four beautiful and thoughtfully appreciative days in Wilmington, NC., including one very special afternoon aboard the USS North Carolina.

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