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  • The Cheap SeatsA Note from the Editor
  • Willie Steele

Baseball is back.

Well, sort of.

As I sit here typing this, it's been a little more than a year since Major League Baseball shut down indefinitely. College baseball was cancelled, and there was some very real concern there would not be any games for the rest of the season.

Well, there was baseball, albeit with a truncated major league season. No minor leagues. No college games. No school games. Not even a Little League World Series to watch as the school year started. Even when the major league games returned, stadiums had more cutouts than actual people, and the cheering on television reminded me of the canned laughter on a bad '70s sitcom. But then, considering some of the decisions the Commissioner's office has made recently, a laugh track might have been more appropriate.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing for me to witness, besides seeing Angel Hernandez and Joe West working games, is the dismantling of the minor leagues over the past year. Growing up in Pennsylvania, a trip to a Pittsburgh Pirates game was a rare treat. Even after my family moved to Ohio, our loyalty was still in Three Rivers Stadium. We would catch a Reds game from time to time, trying to work it out for when the Pirates came to town. But most of my games were at the minor league level in Columbus, where the Yankees AAA team, the Clippers, played. A combination of cheap tickets, close proximity, and the chance to see in person some of the guys I'd watched play on tv made these trips something special. I saw Ron Guidry on a rehab assignment and even got his autograph after my brothers and I begged Dad to let us hang around the clubhouse after the game. I saw Deion Sanders call security to kick my brother (who had tickets two levels up) out of the seats above the dugout. Having grown tired of the comparisons to Bo Jackson, who had already made a name for himself in both baseball and football, "Prime Time" wasn't having [End Page ix] it that day. I saw a lot of guys I predicted would be on the Yankees in a few years stay stuck in Columbus waiting for George Steinbrenner to use his farm system instead of going out and buying stars from other teams.

My love affair with the minor leagues has never ended.

As an undergraduate in Nashville, Tennessee, I spent many nights on Chestnut Street at the old Greer Stadium, a ballpark with its iconic guitar-shaped scoreboard over the left centerfield wall. In the spring of 1993, I decided to not move back home to Ohio but opted instead to stay in Nashville for the summer. That summer, two teams shared the stadium—the Nashville Express, the AA (Southern League) affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, and the Nashville Sounds, the AAA (American Association) club for the Chicago White Sox. Just about any night that summer, my friends and I could catch a game on a whim. Some nights, the ushers showed sympathy towards us broke college kids and let us sit down in the box seats in spite of having tickets for the bleachers.

More often than not, we could be found somewhere along the left field line, carrying on conversations with whoever was playing left that night, occasionally getting a couple of free baseballs in the process. Other times, we ventured out to right field where we would have a panoramic view of the entire stadium, including both dugouts. I can't even begin to guess how many hours we put in at that stadium, not only that summer but for many more to come. But none of it was wasted time.

Later that fall, around playoffs, the country music group Alabama released their album, The Cheap Seats. I first heard the title track when my girlfriend, a Braves fan, and I, a Pirates fan, saw the band live early in the fall semester. I didn't know then who wrote the song, but I knew he was my kind of people. The song became my...


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