THE EARLY LEAD: It’s good to be back among the sweet sounds of summer
By BRANDON HURLEY
DES MOINES - Adrenaline is a wonderful thing.
We usually don’t notice it until the comedown, but it creates a unique atmosphere. It courses through your veins and heightens awareness.
Monday evening was one of those nights.
It felt good to take in the rush and unpredictability of live sports once again in Des Moines. Three months is a long time, and it was noticeable.
Baserunning mishaps plagued both games I attended in Des Moines, but that’s bound to happen when young athletes are withheld from competition for 12 weeks. But frankly, things felt normal. It seemed like a usual summer night in Iowa, sandwiched between a blistering sun and suffocating humidity, oh, and that pesky thing we call Coronavirus. Outside of a few social distancing guidelines and some sanitation, one couldn’t necessarily tell these athletes were coming off a three-month suspension due to the threat of COVID-19.
And to say the coaches for both Greene County baseball and softball were relieved, would be an understatement.
“The great thing was, for the most part, it felt like a game of baseball,” Greene County baseball coach Matt Paulsen said. “There’s the extra sanitizing and each team having their own baseballs to take out (each inning) and all that to work out, but overall, we’re playing baseball and that felt great.”
Paulsen and his coaches were careful to abide by the Coronavirus guidelines, staying away from errant foul balls, sanitizing equipment - wiping down bat handles and each individual ball - while also avoiding high fives.
Softball coach Tom Kennedy could be heard prior to the Rams’ game encouraging his girls to stand six feet apart during the National Anthem, creating an odd grouping of athletes. Once victory was claimed and the excited girls turned an eye toward sportsmanship, Kennedy had them wave to their opponents across the diamond. Things were slightly unusual, but not that much. Fans were excited, and cheers erupted from the dugouts and stands.
“As we got playing, it seemed like a normal deal,” Kennedy said. “It was a little odd with all the things we had to do everything but it’s hard to keep the girls hard (social distancing). So we’ve got to work on that.
But it was a night at the ballpark. And that was fun. I’m glad the girls got to do it.”
Even I, the curmudgeon of a sportswriter, was a little rusty and slow to regain grasp of things. I had the wrong memory card for my camera and quickly ran out of space. The rust needed to shake free as I took a while to adjust to outdoor lighting conditions and whatnot. I sweated quite a bit, and even forgot my scorebook. But when it was all said and done, I was blessed to get paid to watch and shoot photos of live sporting events. Even now, as I type this, I don’t think I truly appreciate and respect what we’ve all been through. There was no high school action for 12 entire weeks, that’s hard to fathom and nearly impossible to wrap our minds around.
A gap like that never happens.
But as the coaches and players I spoke with all agreed upon, once that first pitch was thrown and we all settled in, it felt fairly normal.
Here’s to more of that daily routine, the one that hooks us in during the summer months, the crack of the bat, and the slap of a glove, creating the soundtrack to recovery.