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Bat on ball is a glorious sound

By Staff
Commentary by KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
As I walked through the open gate into Clark-LeClair Stadium on Saturday afternoon, I got goose bumps.
Sure, the temperature was hovering around 40 degrees. But my goose bumps weren’t caused by the chilly winter air. They started to pop up as soon as I heard one of my favorite sounds of all time — that familiar and glorious noise that’s made when a bat strikes a baseball.
I don’t care if it’s a “ping” when aluminum meets cowhide, or the “thwack” generated by wood striking the white, hard ball.
I love the sounds of baseball. The smashing of the ball that sizzled toward the bat at 88 miles per hour. The scuffling of feet as players get into position. The endless chatter that emanates from the dugout. The yelling and screaming of the fans.
I love the smell of baseball. The aroma of leather from the new baseball gloves. Hot dogs, pop corn and hot chocolate on those cold, gray days. Cotton candy, peanuts and frosty beverages on those sunny, scorching ones.
I love the visions of baseball. Players whose uniforms are mind-numbingly white. The lush green grass of the outfield. The perfectly manicured dirt of the infield. The white bags placed perfectly along the baselines.
It doesn’t matter if you’re at Historic Grainger Stadium, inside the friendly confines of Clark-LeClair Stadium, any high school field in the area or a patch of grass in your back yard. If you have an imagination, you could be playing at Camden Yards one minute, Fenway Park the next and Jacobs Field after that.
As I sat down and started to watch the East Carolina Pirates go through a scrimmage on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think back to my youth.
I remember climbing on my Schwinn bike, putting my Ron Santo mitt around my wrist and trying to balance a bat on the handle bars. I tugged on my hat and made my trek to Colony Park. It was a place full of swings, jungle gyms and a sandbox. To me, out on the diamond, it was a place of magic.
I could be Andre Thornton or Duane Kuiper. I could be Toby Harrah or Mike Hargrove. I could be Rick Manning or Buddy Bell.
I don’t know how many times Buddy Bell, in my fantasy world, hit the game-winning home run to win the World Series.
Just as I remembered “Buddy” crossing home plate and doffing his cap to the fans, I saw Billy Godwin fling his. The second-year coach for the Pirates, who has his team trying to perfect the “little things” involved with the game, was obviously unhappy after one of his outfielders missed the cutoff man following a base hit.
Godwin, standing near third base, ripped off his cap and fired it toward the dugout before then turning to scowl at a player or two. He retrieved it, brushed off the dirt and placed it back onto his head. It was time for some more teaching. And some more baseball.
And everything glorious about it. The smells. The visions. The sounds.
Ping. Thwack.
Smile.
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Kevin Travis is the sports editor of the Washington Daily News. You may reach him at 940-4217 or by email at Kevin@wdnweb.com.