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I held off on the usual Thursday musings from my “Chillin” column because I knew that I would be taking in baseball games at Parkview Field in Fort Wayne. Even though I’m an avid Tin Caps fan, they were not playing on Thursday night.
The ACAC rented out the field for what has become one of the greatest events for high school baseball players in the conference each year. Each of the eight teams in the Allen County Athletic Conference met up in the last two days at Parkview Field to clash with each other.
On Wednesday, Leo came from behind to defeat the Woodlan Warriors, 7-4 to remain undefeated on top of the ACAC standings a half of a game up on the Jets who were 3-0 entering Thursday night’s games. In the first game on Wednesday, Bluffton nearly pulled out the impossible as they found themselves down, 9-0 in the game. The Tigers would score eight straight runs before Garrett would close the door on the comeback and sneak away with the victory.
Thursday’s games were no less thrilling for baseball fans. One day after the Jets saw their 11-game winning streak come to a painful end when Norwell came from behind to win at AC, they entered the same field as the Heritage Patriots. The Pats were also victims of an excruciating loss the night before, but at the hands of the Bellmont Braves, 3-2. Bellmont ‘s two runs in the seventh earned them a win against a Heritage team who is much better than their 9-9 record shows.
Not to be outdone, the Jets and Pats gave their fans free baseball going into an eighth inning before settling the score with AC getting two big runs in the top of the inning.
SA jumped out front against the Raiders in the fourth and final game of the ACAC-fest at Parkview with a run in the first inning, but could not recover from a three-run fourth and fell 3-2.
Having played at Wizards Stadium once upon a time, I had a feeling of mixed emotions seeing the high schoolers out there showcasing their skills on what will be the greatest stage most of them will see in their baseball careers.
Some of the players will be lucky enough to move on to the collegiate level and possibly beyond, but for most of them, Parkview Field was the highlight of their high school athletic careers and possibly it meant more to them than that even.
I remember being on the field where the Wizards called home. I believe we drew the Woodlan Warriors that day and we all had a combination of jitters and excitement. Running out to the field to the sound of our names being announced was almost too much for me to take as a grin crossed my face.
Every blade of grass seemed perfect, the fence seemed to be 20 feet tall, and the field too large even for nine of us.
From experience and from what I saw from Thursday’s games, there are two types of reactions to how incredibly big and important the Parkview Field game is to players.
For some, the overwhelming feeling of dread can keep them feeling as nervous as a snowman in March. Those are the kids who are whispering to themselves in the field, “Please don’t hit the ball to me” repeatedly.
The other type of player is the one whose chest puffs out when he hears the way the fans sound louder in a bigger ballpark, knowing that it simply can’t get any better than this. It’s the feeling all kids get when they are playing in the backyard by themselves with just a ball and a bat (do kids do that still?!?).
Those are the kids who make the plays with two outs in the last inning. Those are the kids who get the scholarships and go on to bigger things.
And that’s why Parkview Field is circled on every good player’s calendar in the ACAC.
Every kid out there who has hungered for baseball after high school knows that the Tin Caps stadium is one of the arenas that they can prove themselves and many do.
Each of the four games was within three runs by the end of it and three of them were within one run after the seventh inning.
You can search far and wide for good baseball on tv and the internet but the ACAC games at Parkview, the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, and sectional games and beyond are where the action is.
These kids aren’t playing for money. Not yet, anyways.
There’s just something about watching baseball where the only thing on the line is pride for your school. If you’re tired of watching professional sports and mumbling and grumbling that they have no heart, visit your local school’s team. It’ll be worth it.