Almost One Year Later, A Very Different Experience at Saturday’s Salve Regina Baseball Game vs NYU
April 17, 2021 – I attended, with permission from the Salve Regina Sports Information Department, a home game at Salve Regina University’s Reynolds Field. The country, at that point in history, was in the early stages of opening up events, like college baseball games, safely to the public and Salve Regina’s campus was no exception. The streets surrounding the field had signs posted that no fans were allowed inside the stone walls, near the bleachers, near the dugouts, near the players for either team. Fans were asked to respectfully gather behind the designated areas, across the street, and socially distant from the players and subsequently the experience of being at a baseball game. I remember talking to frustrated parents of some of the players out in the grassy area passed the portable fencing about their experience at the game. Mixed emotions is how I would describe most of their comments. To be truthful, there wasn’t really a good spot to watch the game and take photos, as I typically do. I even had these students shoot a photo of the game for me:
Fast forward to yesterday, almost one year to the date of my last Salve Regina baseball game (home game that is) and there was a very different feel as I was walking up to the field. Some fans had gathered in the bleachers in and around center field. The press box you see in the photo above was back in its normal spot in center field as well. No signs restricting fan access in sight. I was very excited to watch a Salve game from behind home plate and get some great game photos. As I was approaching the right field fence area, the first batter I saw hit the ball high and far and gone over the left field fence. It was Salve Baseball’s Dustin Siqueira and I heard the crowd behind home plate erupt. And I thought, wow, this is going to be a very different Rhode Island Baseball Experience today for sure.
The quote “the more things change, the more they stay the same” can be used to describe personal events, business dealings, and yes baseball. On the mound on April 17, 2021 – Left handed Starting Pitcher Patrick Maybach from North Kingstown. On the mound yesterday, April 23, 2022 – Left Handed Starting Pitcher Patrick Maybach, still from North Kingstown. Last year, I barely got to see Maybach pitch because of the restricted access to the field. This year, a very different experience as I found a seat on the stone wall behind the backstop, just to the right of the blue Salve Regina stadium seating section. The lefty fired strike after strike, repeating his motion, mixing a crisp fastball with calculated breaking balls.
I mentioned the frustrated fans from last year’s game. Yesterday, was a very different story! The Salve Regina sports fans mingled behind home plate, in the aforementioned Salve stadium seats directly behind home plate, in and around and behind the bleacher areas. The in between innings and walk up music was back and loud and energetic. Local Newporters walking their dogs stopped in to check on the score. Salve students took seats in the bleachers and chatted with friends and family members. The visiting NYU families were in and around the dugouts and chatting with players. It was a festive game with a lot of chatter in the dugouts, in the stands, in the area around the stone wall where Rachel and I were sitting – it was a fun game to attend with a lot of energy. Again, quite different from last year’s game!
Bunting the baseball is an offensive weapon I just love to watch in a close game. If a team gets runners on base, in a close game, in an effort to move the runners up a base, teams will look to the bunt to push the runners closer to third and eventually to home plate. A sacrifice bunt is a team concept – you are giving up your at bat so another teammate can move closer to scoring a run. Runs scored are important in team wins. Thus, the importance of bunting the baseball in a key spot in a game is often critical to a team’s success in the W column. Salve executed several bunts in key spots. A sacrifice bunt moves a runner over from 2nd to 3rd base. A squeeze bunt (suicide or safety) can move the runner from 3rd to the plate to score a run. On Saturday, Salve Baseball was successful in sacrifice and safety squeeze bunt plays. Love seeing that and the results were runs scored for Salve Baseball!!!
A few observations from yesterday’s game. First, the fan experience at Reynolds Field is really up close and personal. The netting around the backstop sits tight up against the footing of the bleachers and the Salve stadium seating section. You are literally just a few feet away from the game action and a foul ball hit into the screen takes on a whole new meaning at close range. The hiss of the baseball fired in by the pitcher, the crack of the bat, the umpires called third strike or foul ball, all of the sounds of baseball amplified because you are so close to home plate you can almost touch it! Second, sitting on a stone wall to watch a baseball game is a really cool experience. Add to that the backdrop of Spring blossoming right in front of your eyes as well as all the majestic buildings around Reynolds Field, the intimate setting of the baseball field to fan situation, the weather in the 60s for most of the game with just a few wind gusts here and there – it was easy to sit there inning after inning just soaking it all in. Third, the reason why coaches tell you to wear a mask if you are warming up a pitcher? Because you never know and safety first is better than a baseball up your nose. Case in point – as Salve’s Maybach was warming up to a backup catcher (his catcher was getting his gear on after grounding out to end the 5th inning), Maybach bounced a curveball and it hit the warmup catcher in the mask, in the face. Had he not been wearing a mask behind the plate to warm up Maybach, we maybe talking about a broken nose or worse. I am happy to write that the catcher was fine and was relieved shortly by the starting catcher without incident.
After chatting with the Maybach family, whom I know from my Wickford Little League days, and as the sun was now behind a huge swath of clouds, thus dropping the temperature, Rachel and I started to head out of the field area towards our parked car. We had parked on the street I stood one year earlier talking to frustrated parents, some of them who had stood on their car’s roofs to catch a glimpse of the game. Not so yesterday, as the street was cleared of fans. The fans were behind and around home plate seated in the bleachers, standing and chatting with fellow students and alumni, and getting up close and personal with the game action. As we were walking out of the right field area, a long fly ball came my way. I managed to snag it as it lay still and fired a strike towards the NYU dugout for an impressive throw back, to which my right shoulder screamed “Why did you do that???” The scoreboard read “Salve 6 – NYU 3” as we made our way to the car. Maybach had pitched all 7 innings of the game to that point.
This photo above was my view last year around the 2nd inning. I wanted to capture just how far I was from the game action and how tough it was to watch and follow the game. I recall only staying an inning or 2 last year.
This was the final photo I took yesterday, standing right up against the fence in center field. And yes, yesterday was a much different experience, having the opportunity to sit and enjoy 7 amazing innings of baseball. It was great to watch North Kingstown’s Patrick Maybach fire strike after strike for 7 innings. The Maybach family, sitting in the first base bleachers, were acting as commentators charting all of Patrick’s pitches and discussing what and why and how he was able to throw them. Maybach ended getting the win on 4 hits, striking out 9 NYU batters. Final score was Salve Baseball 10 – NYU 3. I loved sitting on the stone wall, taking photos of the game, writing notes, observing fans, and watching a fantastic college baseball game right up and close to the game action. I completely understood the University’s position on the fans in 2021. And was so thrilled to experience a very different atmosphere yesterday in 2022, nearly one year to the date. Awesome Rhode Island Baseball Experience.
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