It is amazing what you hear when you listen. I was in Doe's Eat Place, the first major retail business to rise up in the shadow of Hammons Field, conducting an interview for the Springfield News Leader, when the manager received a call from the secretary of Tom Pagnozzi Charities--an organization that provides funding for baseball equipment to under-privileged youth in northwest Arkansas.
The secretary was a former co-worker of the manager of the Doe's in Springfield and was calling to assure him that Pags was indeed planning a trip to Springfield to eat at his favorite restaurant. She said he would be coming in July, either the weekend of the 15th when they played San Antonio or the weekend of the 29th when they would face Tulsa. I will keep you posted on the date (by the way there are now 16 balls on the roof of the indoor training facility at Hammons Field).
Dennis Fowler, manager of the new Doe's in Springfield, says that the Doe's franchises in Arkansas are very involved with Pagnozzi Charities and that it is simply a natural thing for him to want to help out an organization that has been so generous to him and his "baseball kids."
So, a little heads-up here: If you are going to be in Springfield to see a Springfield Cardinals game, and you are looking for a great place to eat, don't get yourself all worked up driving around town looking for a spot to chow down. Doe's Eat Place, specializing in steaks, shrimp and tamales, is only a block east of the ballpark (right next to the Twilight Inn-the best and closest watering hole for Springfield Cardinal fans--but more about that later). You won't even have to move your car to get there. Or, better yet, park your car at Doe's before the game and save the $3 to $7 dollar parking fee. It is a place where white or blue (or cardinal-red) collar-wearing sports fans will feel comfortable.
There is a good selection of sports memorabilia scattered throughout the restaurant. Mention to the manager that you are a Cardinals fan and he might show you his 1964 St. Louis Cardinals pennant with a team photo attached.
Speaking of coming to see a Springfield Cardinals game, there would be no better time than right now to do so. The Cards are in a first-half pennant race with the Tulsa Drillers. After losing on Wednesday night to the Arkansas Travelers, the Springfield team finds itself needing to win three of the four games with Tulsa to win the first half title. Play in that series begins tonight (Thursday) and there are tickets available for all games.
It is looking like it will be a great series. Mike McCoy (.252), lead-off batter for Springfield, is playing excellent defense at shortstop and getting on base a fair-share of the time. Reid Gorecki (.255) is swinging the bat well enough to worry the opposing pitchers and if Reid isn't enough to worry about he is followed by Juan Richardson (.307), Rico Washington (.327), Terry Evans (.474) and Josh Pressley (.271)--all long ball threats. Jarrett Hoffpauir is looking more like Tommy Herr at second base every day. Dan Moylan (.444) is back behind the plate and Nick Stavinoha is roaming left field like he owns it.
All in all, the Springfield Cardinals have a tremendous line-up matched with some outstanding pitching from Jordon Pals (5-1), Stuart Pomeranz (7-2), Mike Parisi (3-2) and Chris Lambert (5-5). No reason why they can't be the first-half champions of the Northern Division of the Texas League. The way it works in the Texas League is that the Northern Division champion from the first half will face the champion of the second half for the right to go to the Texas League Championship Series. Should the same team win both the first half and the second half, the team with the next best overall combined record would receive a wild card berth into the playoffs.
So, it's down to the wire in Springfield. The Cardinals must win three out of four to take the first half title. Tulsa won their last game against Wichita and are a full game in front of the Cards. One of these two teams will emerge from this series wearing the division crown with the knowledge that no matter what happens in the second-half of the season, they will be playing in the post-season.
The Springfield Cardinals want it. The home office wants it. The fans want it even more. The time is right for Springfield to add its first pennant to the top of the dugout. Go Cards!!