Joel Reichenberger: Baseball's return is sweet

Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Joel here.

— The mere fact that baseball was played in Steamboat Springs on Saturday has an “Is the world ending?” aura to it.

Saying I hadn’t seen the Steamboat Springs High School baseball team play a home game before this season doesn’t really do the story justice. I hadn’t even seen them come close to playing a home game. They’ve never even debated the idea in the five previous seasons I’ve covered the program.

Sure, I’ve seen the squad play a “home” game — several, in fact. I’ve had to drive to Rifle to do it, however. The vast majority of games scheduled for Craig, Steamboat’s semi-official home away from home, have been canceled and moved.

When I walked up to Steamboat’s home doubleheader Saturday, I was afraid it’d be hard to shake the supremely surreal feeling.

Turns out, it wasn’t that difficult.

That’s one of the things about baseball: It’s played pretty much everywhere in this country, and it’s pretty much the same game everywhere.

I don’t know of any other sports that retain the same feel as readily as baseball. Football certainly doesn’t. Teams and regions have personalities, and that always seems to be reflected in their football teams. High-tempo offenses dominate some areas, and big, burly defenses dominate others.

In basketball, no one ever would mistake a plodding Big 10 squad for one from the Big 12.

Baseball, though, always just seems to be baseball, even when some teams are built for the home run and others around a pitching staff.

Saturday was proof.

The high school baseball team let loose a full-blown media campaign advertising its rare home date, and people showed up. Baseball fans showed up.

Has anyone ever seen someone chewing sunflower seeds at a soccer game? I haven’t, but Saturday, the bags of seeds seemed to sprout out of thin air.

High school fans picked up the always positive chatter of baseball fans as if they spoke it every weekend. They knew a foul tip was “a good cut.” They knew letting a strike go by was worth an “Attaboy, wait for your pitch!”

Turns out, Steamboat is packed with baseball fans who’ve just been waiting to be thawed out.

Against all odds, a spring day at the ballpark in Steamboat felt like a day at the ballpark anywhere else in the country.

Of course, Steamboat is Steamboat. There was the popping of mitts and the grilling of hot dogs, just as anywhere else. Then, between games, at least one fan ran to his car for something to help pass the time. He came back with a fly rod and began working on his cast.

On Saturday, April baseball in Steamboat Springs proved to be baseball, and the fans proved to be baseball fans but, as always, with a twist.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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