Spirits need lifting as summer drags on

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The dog days of summer have never held truer for me.

The lull of a typical sweltering Southeast Missouri day just adds to the relentlessness that is the summer season for us sports writers.

Believe it or not, we like to enjoy our summer as much as the next journalist, but news never sleeps. And as the clock strikes 3 a.m., apparently I don't either.

It's been almost four solid months of nothing but one sport; baseball. The monotony of watching and covering one game after another is beginning to take it's toll. And before 'little Johnny Ballplayer's' mommy and daddy, or my wife for that matter, start to get the wrong idea about my commitment, let me explain a little further.

There's nothing like starting a new sport season. Learning what's in store for our local schools in the upcoming season, whatever it may be, is one of my favorite things to do. The coaching changes, new players or new schemes gives me a sense of excitement.

I guess that's what it is. It's something new. Everybody likes a little change every now and then.

So, that got me to thinking.

Instead of continuing this whine-fest, what could I propose that could possibly bring some change to the summer season? I have a few suggestions.

First, and maybe foremost, alcohol.

Baseball and the occasional beer seems to scream summer. Guess what seems to be missing from the aforementioned two in the local area? Bingo!

It isn't a coincidence that Busch Stadium is called just that. If memory serves me correctly, it's long-time radio announcer Mike Shannon's job to promptly remind us Cardinal listeners that it's time for an ice-cold (insert Anheuser Busch product here).

That's not a coincidence either, coming from the voice of the Cardinals (wink, wink).

There's also Miller Park, the home of the Brewers, Coors Field, the home of the Rockies, and let's not forget Minute Maid Park and Tropicana Field. Yeah, that's right. Orange juice mixed with whatever your poison, can play a vital part in spicing up the national pastime as well.

I understand that combining adult beverages and the local sports scene wouldn't be the best marriage. Most of what goes on involves high school players and obviously, I wouldn't condone any illegal activity that involved the underage. I'm mostly talking about the older fellahs. More specifically, the failed attempts of the Sikeston Bulls.

For the short time that it's been in existence, I've always felt that's been the missing piece for the hometown Kitty League. The collegiate players that the Bulls have been able to feature on the field have been worth the price of admission more times than not and for what it's worth, coming from the college atmosphere where alcohol is more common than the party's that provide it, I'd say that they are used to being around the consumption.

Making sure that the proper, legal fans receive this extra incentive at the park would be the biggest obstacle, but it couldn't possibly by any worse than the restrictions at a restaurant or even the Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo.

I would think that having a designated area, say behind the left field fence at VFW Memorial Stadium or along the right field foul line at Hillhouse Park, would be perfect spots. A roped off area where a quick look at your drivers license would give a person access and an ID band around the wrist while a DPS officer stands close by just to make sure things remain in order.

And myself, always looking to better the current situation, would figure that it could produce a few more jobs. There would be a need for the all important 'bartender' as well as a couple of waiters/waitresses to enhance the experience. Hey, if you can't afford the green, foamy, comfy seats right behind home plate at Busch where servers are at your beckon call, why not get that same feeling at your local park?

And with all of the money spent by parents just to have their kids' name on a roster, I'd venture to say that the first week of alcohol sales would pay for most of their expenses.

It's starting to sound like a win-win for everybody I think!

Along with the accessibility of adult beverages, lets make the big switch to wood bats -- for every league.

I consider myself a purist of the game of baseball and think that having nothing but wood bats would do nothing but good. Aren't most high school players, looking for that college scholarship, wanting their chance with the wood in the big leagues anyway? Why not get as much practice with it as possible?

Swinging real lumber brings an entirely different element to the game. It brings pitching strategies to the forefront with less emphasis on trying to demolish every pitch that comes the batter's way.

We all love to see the long ball, myself included, but there are far too many fundamentals of hitting that seem to be skipped over when using the metal. No matter how fun it is to hear the 'ping!'

I believe all this talk of change is coming from my growing anticipation of football season. It's creeping closer and closer every single minute and I think subtle changes throughout the baseball season, like the two I mentioned above, would ease the pain of waiting for the fall.

Maybe then, Sikeston baseball fans could have a regular KIT League team in the area that they could count on being there year in and year out and maybe the Senior Babe Ruth and American Legion teams could draw bigger crowds. Knowing that they would all love to play in front of a packed house.

Just giving the option of alcohol can't be the worse thing to ever happen. As the recently passed holiday reminds us, we have that choice to consume or not to consume. All I'm saying is that it might do more good than harm in the long run.

Like the famous Hank Hill in the recently cancelled animated series "King of the Hill" once said, 'Is there anything beer can't do?'

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