Spring has returned to eastern Pennsylvania. And somewhere northwest of here, there’s a bunch of 19-year-olds celebrating its arrival with a victory pizza or three.
I always try to hit the very first live college baseball game in the Lehigh Valley each year — or at least the first game on a weekend, since I can’t get to games on work days.
Lehigh Carbon Community College and Penn State Schuylkill did the honors this year, starting at noon today.
And this season opener was more special than most.
According to the school’s athletics website, Penn State Schuylkill (it’s a regional satellite campus of the University JoePa Built) just added intercollegiate baseball this year. And the noon game, the first of a doubleheader, was their first of the year.
So this wasn’t just the birth of a new season; it was the birth of a new program, a new team. You don’t see that every day.
The newcomers’ uniforms — white trimmed with gray and dark blue — reminded me a little bit of the ones once worn by the Toronto Blue Jays, which reinforced my image of Penn State Schuylkill as a sort of underdog expansion team.
Of course this narrative is romanticized crap, to some degree.
Since LCCC is a community college, its baseball roster completely turns over every two or three years as well. The LCCC team was scarcely an established juggernaut; it was testing its sinews and learning to play together today, just as much as its new-formed opponent.
Still, the circumstances lent every aspect of the game a tinge of novelty.
And Schuykill encouraged my narrative by coming out of the gate like an expansion team. They were down 4-0 after a half-inning, thanks to a couple of walks, a hit batsman, a deeply hit double that wasn’t far short of a grand slam, and some other slop.
But then they settled down. Their pitcher started consistently getting his offspeed pitches over for strikes. He worked his way through the second inning without a run. Same with the third, and the fourth.
As the pitcher settled down, the bats came alive. Schuylkill scored four runs to tie it in the top of the third.
Once they broke through, Schuylkill began adding more runs. First one at a time, then by the bunch. They were up 8-4 or 9-4 when I left, and their website tells me they eventually won 14-4.
They lost the second game. But still, that’s not a bad way to break in, and I hope they’re pleased with the day’s efforts.
It was a gorgeous day, too. Full of sunshine and baseball sounds and baseball sights — like the father (grandpa?) and son beyond the left-field fence who alternated playing long-toss and watching the game from their distant perch.
I’m sure the other games I see this year won’t be historic in any way, shape or form. But if they are half as pleasant as today’s game was, it will be a good spring and summer.