It started out with the Wichita Wranglers taking four of the five games scheduled at Hammons Field. One solitary cry seemed to rise up above the confines of the Redbird's home stadium all week--"What is it?" No one could seem to figure out just what had happened to a team that had come so close to winning the first-half title in its division. Everyone had the same forlorn look on their face. Those in the stands; the beer guy marching up and down the steps and through the aisles; the front office people; even the hard working, underpaid, over-fed media types in the press box.
"What is it?" echoed everywhere as the number of errors on the field mounted and the hits and homeruns diminished and faded. At one point in the July 3 game the faithful in the press box turned their eyes from the disaster happening on Hammons Field to the TV on the wall to watch the very first Springfield Cardinal to ever play for St. Louis take the mound and make his history-making debut. Josh Kinney, a member of the 2005 Springfield team, who had made the Memphis Triple-A squad in 2006, was called up to the majors to pitch in relief in Atlanta. Everyone held their breath in the press box as the first pitch by Kinney was delivered to the Brave at the plate. SMACK!--a home run. Insult to injury!
By now the scorekeeper had worn down his third pencil of the night, marking in all the errors on his scoresheet, Brittany, the ever-present media relations assistant, swore she was going to let the next foul ball through the window hit her and put her out of her misery, and I had already announced that I was going downstairs and beat my head on one of the steel girders that hold the press box up.
The Cards lost that night in ugly fashion. But you know what? The "what is it?" fans gave the struggling team a standing ovation as they left the field. The next day was the Fourth of July and the only real fireworks in Hammons Field were high above center field after another loss by the Springfield Cardinals to Wichita.
On Wednesday the Cards showed up in Tulsa ready to make a new start and turn around their 2-10 record in the second half. But prior to the game, starting pitcher Stuart Pomeranz injured himself in batting practice (something that would never happen in the American League) and was scratched from the game. Carmen Cali, a relief pitcher by trade, was called to start. Not the best way to begin a turn-around.
And, if that wasn't enough of a blow, it was announced during the game that one of Springfield's best players, outfielder Terry Evans, was traded to the Los Angeles/Anaheim Angels for right-handed pitcher Jeff Weaver. Weaver became a St. Louis Cardinal the next day and Evans put on an Arkansas Travelers' uniform Thursday night--though he didn't appear in the game.
So how could things get worse for the Springfield team? They couldn't. They had to get better--and they did. They beat the Tulsa Drillers 8-4 on Wednesday. On Thursday night they did it again beating the Drillers for the second time in as many days, 2-1, with Mike Parisi getting the win, his fourth of the year.
A comeback has to start somewhere, and I pray that this is it, because I don't want to put dents in one of those steel girders and I know Brittany doesn't really want to catch a foul ball with her forehead. The team is now 4-10 for the second half and 43-39 over-all. They play Tulsa three more games and return home on Monday, July 10. A few more wins, especially a couple at home, could change the entire face of Hammons Field.
Guys, if for no other reason, do it for Brittany--she's one of the good guys.
You can write John Brayfield at email@example.com.