Bostonian Billy-Ball Visits Springfield

Baseball writer, humorist extraordinaire and Birdhouse friend Bill Chuck, also known as Billy-Ball, visited Springfield's Hammons Field on Monday with an eye toward replicating the experience back home in Boston. Here is what he learned.

They explained to me that in some parts of Missouri it's pronounced "Missour-ee" in other parts it's pronounced "Missour-uh"; I was in Springfield, where I don't remember how it's pronounced, "D'oh." All I know is that there were no oceans on either side of me so I was out of my element. My internal map is strikingly similar to the famous Saul Steinberg 1976 New Yorker cartoon, "A View of the World from Ninth Avenue.".

I was in Springfield with Alex Bok and other Boston luminaries (including Boston City Council member John Tobin who threw out the first pitch, showing better stuff than Keith Foulke) to visit the beautiful Hammons Field, home of the Double A, Texas League, Springfield Cardinals.

Bostonians, have you ever given any thought to who Shea Stadium was named after? The miserable Flushing Meadows Stadium is named for attorney William Shea, who was instrumental in bringing a NL expansion franchise to New York in 1962. He first tried to bring an existing franchise to New York but the Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, and Pittsburgh Pirates all refused Shea's overtures. At this point Shea, along with Branch Rickey, announced the formation of the Continental League in 1959. The Continental League would be a third major league and would begin play in 1961. Faced with this threat, the National League awarded the Mets to New York.

Why do I mention that? Simply because if it were still that time, the next ballpark built in Boston would be called Bok Field, because, remember this, Alexander Bok will bring minor league baseball to Boston, he will bring a great ballpark (if Hammons Field is any indication of the work of the architectural firm, Pellham-Phillips-Hagerman of Springfield) and Bostonians and visitors will flock to this low-priced complement to Fenway. But, first, let me assure you that it won't be named after Bok, the driving force behind bringing indy ball to Boston, simply because the $32 million ballpark in Springfield will cost about $50 million in Beantown and the stadium will require the naming rights to be sold. Billy-Ball Field sounds about right from this seat.

And the seats are indeed comfortable. Wide seats, each with cup holders, all facing the field with no obstructed views and plenty of space so that when you walk through the aisles and to your seats athletic maneuverability is not a prerequisite. The concession areas, including gift shop, are located on an open, clean, well-lit concourse. There are working elevators and handicap seating. There are areas for private parties which would be ideal for families in this area whose children may never have had the opportunity to go to a professional baseball game because of lack of available tickets and exorbitant prices. The left-field line features a premium party deck.

The luxury boxes are really beautiful. You can watch the game in the outside seats or from indoors where food is delivered and there is a flat-screen TV. To be honest, as engaging as the game was, we switched from the closed-circuit broadcast of our game to ESPN and also watched the Red Sox defeat the Yankees.

The facility, funded entirely by local businessman, hotel mogul and benefactor John Q. Hammons, is located in the center piece of the midtown development project. The field is also used by Missouri State University. Dodger Bill Mueller is an alum and the MSU clubhouse is named for him as he was very helpful in its creation. All the clubhouses, home, visitor, and umpire are comfortable, large and well-equipped. There are outstanding work-out areas plus a spectacular indoor infield for fielding and batting practice.

Guess which one is Billy-Ball and which one is Justin Garza!

Cardinals' fans will be happy to read that their Springfield team is playing at the same level of excellence of their facility. In the game I saw, starting pitcher Stuart Pomeranz led the Redbirds to a 2-1 win over the Midland RockHounds, the A's Double A team. Pomeranz, Cory Doyne and Mark Worrell held Midland to just three hits, as Pomeranz (6-0) became the first six-game winner in the Texas League. The right-hander allowed one run on three hits over seven innings. He turned it over to Doyne, who worked a 1-2-3 inning in the 8th. Mark Worrell followed with a perfect ninth, recording his Texas League-leading 12th of the year. Last night, Springfield won their fourth straight game and moved to a franchise record, 11 games over the .500 mark, beating the RockHounds, 9-7. With Tulsa's loss on Tuesday at home, the Cardinals (27-16) are now three games up in the Texas League's North Division.

Now, we'll finally have something to talk about with Cody Haerther in our regular "Cody's Corner" feature here!

Soon, once again, Boston will be a two-team city. There will be hurdles along the way and this won't be the last that you hear from me on this topic, but affordable, professional baseball will come to Boston. Fans deserve it and the game itself needs it to help in grooming fans for their major league experiences. Whether it is the majors, the minors, or independent baseball a night at the ballpark is a great way to spend an evening and right now too many locals and visitors are deprived that opportunity and shortly, thanks to efforts of Alex Bok, that will be a thing of the past.

By the way, you can add Hammons Field to the many ballparks that I did not catch a foul ball. I did catch a cold, but that doesn't count.

Other pics from the visit - Billy-Ball photos

Billy-Ball is a baseball column by Bill Chuck who enjoys the fun of the game and, more important, enjoys making fun of the game. Bill's quirky look at the idiosyncrasies — and the idiots — of the sport is published Monday through Friday during the baseball season. For your free subscription, click here.

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