Being a Baseball Fan in the Biggest Football Powerhouse Town

Auburn Baseball Plainsman Park
Auburn Baseball at Plainsman Park

What a beautiful game. Game 17, Auburn vs Coppin State. Just another normal mid-season game in the NCAA baseball season.

Imagine if any other collegiate sport played 35 home games, 56 regular season games? Or if any other major professional sports league played 162 regular season games, decided not to keep time on the field, and the person with the ball never scored? Baseball is such an endurance race. A cherished marathon where every footstep is articulated in jaw dropping statistical and artistic beauty.

For me, Turner Field and the Braves are too far away to become an in-person daily routine except on Fox Sports South. To really fully understand the inner workings of baseball’s beauty that this long season provides, it has to become commonplace, routine. Luckily, baseball’s depth provides so many outlets, in so many different leagues, nearly anyone can find a local team to support. I happen to live in one of the greatest college sports towns in the country, so my non-MLB team is the Auburn University Tigers.

Today’s game marks the halfway point in the season and the long schedule is just starting to take on the look of a marathon. Jordan-Hare Stadium is always looming large in the background over it’s Plainsman Park neighbor. The huge majestic concrete pillars hibernating until fall with one reprieve in April, the A-Day Game, when 60,000 people come out to see us play ourselves. Jordan-Hare is always the giant in the room, the most powerful, with the most money, the biggest following, and a stadium that changes the landscape of our entire state 8 to 10 times a year. Plainsman Park, however, providing 35 home games at prices the average person in Auburn can afford, offers something football can’t, accessibility.

On this particular day I am sitting, more like bathing, in the beautiful afternoon sunshine in the south in March. An almost-hot day at the park (did I mention it’s March), where the temp says 69° but really feels more like 80–85° in the sun.

I had no time at all today to get the lineup and score the game as I normally would. My last meeting of the day ended about an hour ago, so there was just enough time to make it to the park and enjoy the setting. Scoring is but just one of the countless aspects that makes baseball unique, poetic. It offers any fan the opportunity to become part of the game being played, and can be done by nearly anyone. The ability to score the game is as much an art form as anything else in life, just as are the many combinations of Auburn Baseball uniforms these days, but scoring really helps to learn the intricacies of the game.

Today Auburn is wearing their home orange jersey and white pants and Coppin State is wearing an Auburn-blue like jersey with gray pants. It’s now 3:30 PM CT and unfortunately on this day pitcher Kevin Davis (#12) only completed 1 full inning and was taken out in the top of the 2nd with no outs. Coppin scored 1 run in the top of the first after he walked three batters, then walked another in the 2nd. Davis was replaced by Jakob Nixon (#8) with 2 men on base and no outs, both runners still accountable to Davis. Finally turning the inning over to Auburn’s offense in the bottom of the 2nd Blake Logan (#1) hit a 3 run homer over our green monster. The homer had to go at least 360′-370′ over the Bosox-like fence that has Bo Jackson’s panorama covering most of that left field wall padding.
This is one of these lazy day games where the sun is just warm enough, especially for this time of year, to allow for a relaxed crowd. Deborah is knitting, and it is quiet enough to clearly hear the sounds of the game, along with various conversations of people nearby.

There is still this one unfortunate state of college baseball affairs at play here. The batters address the pitcher with an aluminum bat, the only real significant travesty in college baseball. There are a handful of other minor indictments one can raise here but I won’t. Although the sound of the aluminum bat is not quite the same as the beauty of MLB wood, it still creates this unique echoing ripple off the green monster and athletic dorms over right field where most of the football players live.

Our world class heckler is here and attentive as always. His job is to make sure the pitcher for Coppin State (or any away team that arrives not expecting a thinking fan crowd) does not get away with anything, and ensures he is rattled as much as any away pitcher could be by a comedic post-Iraq drill Sargent. Our season ticket neighbor came today, along with the normal “retired” season ticket holders. A lady on the stairs walking up into our section came within perhaps an inch of getting beaned in the head with a foul ball, and did not even notice. It’s quite fascinating how someone can come that close to major injury and not even know it happened.
The crowd here couldn’t be more local, and the visitors have virtually no fans attending today other than players family. I love this crowd, and much of it has to do with baseball itself. They are as calm as the pace of the game. Middle class retirees mixed with University staff, and students with an excuse to skip class on a beautiful day. In other words, those who love baseball. It’s a microcosm of our Auburn community. A generally quiet, laid back, friendly southern town.

Top of the 5th inning now and Auburn seems to have this one well in hand. Coppin had to take their starting pitcher out after he was hit by a hard line drive in the ankle (they needed to take him out anyway). Auburn now has an 8–2 lead off 8 hits and 0 errors.

What a beautiful game.

Auburn Tigers Football A-Day Game Photos For 2012

Auburn Tigers Aday Game 2012

Today was the annual crazy-day game where we play ourselves, called the Auburn A-Day Game. Of course just about every school has a spring game where the offense plays the defense, it just seems to get bigger and bigger as the years go by. Today we had over 43,427 people at this game where we played ourselves, a game in which Coach Chizik said “numerical values meant little — if not nothing.” Makes me wonder (every single year)… why… but, it’s Auburn football, and there are very few chances to get into Jordan-Hare Stadium and take photos of crazy people (myself included since obviously I was at this “game”). I feel sort of obligated to go now since I have 4 years of A-Day Game posts on my blog, and I wouldn’t want to cull a blog mini-series of mine like the A-Day Game.

As Ryan Wood wrote for the Opelika-Auburn News on the game, “I wouldn’t look and pay attention to any of the stats today,” said Chizik, who barely glanced at the sheet in front of him for the 10 minutes he spent with the media. “It was different guys in there with different personnel groupings, and mix and match players. I wouldn’t read into any stats that you may see, good or bad.” But, that just means that keep stats for this game? Seriously? OK, I guess we keep stats on everything these days, and why not, the number of data points that we can capture at any given event now is bordering on the incomprehensible.

One interesting thing that did take place yesterday was the unavailing of three statues of Auburn’s Heisman Trophy winners, Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson, and Cam Newton. I have photos of the new statues, but I think I am going to post them in a separate blog post, after all, they did win the Heisman, they probably deserve their own post. I do find it kind of interesting that after something like 100 years of football we have now joined Alabama in memorializing our gladiators in the form of gigantic bronze statues that would make the Greek gods proud. I guess I can no longer make fun of Bama’s statue of Bear Bryant or Nick Saban and the like, oh well.

Auburn Tigers Aday Game 2012

Auburn Tigers Aday Game 2012

Auburn Tigers Aday Game 2012

Auburn Tigers Aday Game 2012 Marching Band Drums

Auburn Tigers Aday Game 2012 Marching Band Trumpets

Auburn Tigers Aday Game 2012

Auburn Tigers Football vs Alabama Crimson Tide 2011 :: Photos

Well it was not that great of a game today but it was still great to be at the game at least. Another regular season has come and gone, can’t believe it. I decided today I would leave the camera at home and just go enjoy the game, but of course I didn’t leave home without my phone. I have always loved trying to do some actual photography with my cell phone over the years. It creates more of a challenge but also forces you to get creative.

All the shots in this post came from my iPhone, my favorite being the shot above when the sun was just about to go behind the west stands of the stadium. The clouds made it perfect, especially with the lights on and “Champions 2010” reflecting off the windows. It was another unforgettable season (not for the same reasons as last year), now it’s time to wait and see where Auburn ends up going for a bowl game.

Auburn Tigers Football vs Mississippi State Game 2 :: Photos

The game this week was another crazy ending that ended with a win by a last play stop that literally came within an inch or two of a Mississippi State score. For those of us who sit in the blasting sun hopefully this will be the last day game until it gets a little cooler.

Next week Auburn goes on the road and so do we. We will be watching Auburn play Clemson from Denver where we will be celebrating the birth of our second grandson. Until then, hope you enjoy some of the photos from the game today. It was a hot day to haul the camera around Jordan-Hare Stadium but I love some of the images from today. I’m always amazed that there is anything original left to produce at a football game but each game is always different. War Eagle.

Auburn Tigers Football vs Utah State Game 1 :: Photos

This was a crazy crazy game, that almost ended with Auburn getting beat by Utah State. Auburn seems to always make the games exciting and this was certainly no exception. Of course as with every game this time of year it was blasting hot but with a nice breeze from Tropical Storm Lee down in the gulf. It’s really hard to believe that the football season is back in full swing but it is. Time goes by so incredibly fast… it seems like last week we were watching them play Oregon in the national championship game. But, 6-8 months have gone by and the summer is almost over. At least in the end Auburn ended up winning the game, even if it wasn’t pretty. Next week will be a tough game for them.

Cornerstone Staff Take it To the Bowling Alley :: Photos

Every month we have a meeting where the entire staff gets together for lunch, but this Tuesday, everyone headed over to the Auburn Bowling Alley for a game instead of our normal “meeting”. It was loads of fun and a great break from the normal routine of things. That first shot is the whole motley crew, including my bald head (thanks Ashley Coxwell for taking the shot), seems everyone on staff is a professional bowler, we just happened to have missed a few pins for some reason. This particular all-staff meeting was said to be a “surprise” so none of us knew what was going on until we were told where to drive to for lunch. I love a staff that cherishes some down time, even if it’s just 90 minutes at the bowling alley. I hadn’t been bowling in probably 10 years but it was a blast. The are tons more photos but I’m saving those for ransom later in the summer.

Auburn Basketball Looses a Heartbreaker to Baylor :: Photos

Auburn vs Baylor in the NIT

This was probably the toughest loss in Auburn Basketball that I have seen in person.  Down to the wire with about 8 seconds to go Reed had a chance to shoot two free throws to win the game, missed both, and Barrett came back with another chance to win with a 3-point shot and also missed. Both players had a great game, and the entire Auburn basketball season was one of the best in years, but this was a heartbreaking loss when they clawed their way back into the game and just couldn’t catch a break late to come away with the win.

No matter how this particular game ended the team played hard, they never gave up, and the senior class for the 2008-2009 Auburn basketball team will be remembered as having the 2nd winningest record in Auburn history.  This basketball team was one that many gave up on early on in the season, but they really never did give up, all season long.  It was great fun to watch the season, can’t wait to see what the 2009-2010 basketball season has in store.

Here are some photos from the game.  Great season guys, thanks for the memories.

Auburn vs Baylor in the NIT

Auburn vs Baylor in the NIT

Auburn vs Baylor in the NIT

Auburn vs Baylor in the NIT

Auburn vs Baylor in the NIT

Auburn vs Baylor in the NIT

Auburn vs Baylor in the NIT