For those of us who are not fortunate enough to live in a large city with a Major League Baseball team, please be advised that your baseball thirst can be quenched. My life has been mostly an exposure to the Nashville Vols and the Durham Bulls (of movie fame).
Add to that twelve years of being the wife of a Little League baseball manager and you have a baseball life that is relished by many.
In recent years, my life has changed in dramatic ways. One, we relocated to Fort Worth, Texas and gained the opportunity to attend Texas Rangers’ baseball games. Secondly, we relocated to Fort Worth, Texas and discovered independent league baseball, American Association League baseball to be specific. I had no idea there was any baseball besides Major League, college, Minor League and Little League. What a pleasant surprise.
You’re probably thinking the independent leagues consist of losers and failures. Not a chance. Losers and failures don’t have the character and intestinal fortitude to not give up when faced with adversity and little time left to succeed. The games are fun because players are fighting for their future in baseball. The games are exciting because a collision at home plate is for real and there is no whining afterwards. A Texas League fly ball between center and right field is attempted instead of a lazy chase down on first bounce. Performance and the chance to perform is more important than “playing it safe”.
Fort Worth, Texas is the home of the Fort Worth Cats, a member of the American Association Baseball League. The Fort Worth Cats have won the last three league championships and excelled in attendance until bad weather in 2007 affected attendance. The Fort Worth Cats have become a solid fixture in Fort Worth with a solid fan base and widespread business support.
The league itself has experienced the same ups and downs as most independent leagues probably experience. Some teams fail and either shut down or join a league with less travel expense and payroll involved. The failures provide an opportunity for an investor to start a new team or move a team from another league. The Cats were joined this year by a new team in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex named the Grand Prairie AirHogs. Both the Cats and the Grand Prairie AirHogs were fortunate enough to have sufficient financial backing to begin their first season in a new, well-designed professional baseball park. The entry of the Grand Prairie AirHogs into the league is evidence of the success already experienced by the Fort Worth Cats.
The first few games attended highlight the better than expected pitching, the ability of the infield to turn a double or triple play, or the ability to make a squeeze play at home plate but you can find that at any level. The real fun in attending is some of the craziness that goes on between innings. Minor leagues and independent leagues have encouraged this activity for years but the Cats have found a successful mesh of kids’ games, absurd races of all kinds, songs with crowd participation encouraged, and one of the most talented mascots I have seen in years. It is great for grandchildren because it seems that something is always happening.
As a baseball enthusiast, my favorite part of Cats baseball is the success of a few players who were given another chance at the “majors”. Independent league baseball afforded them this opportunity and they succeeded when there was little other opportunity for them. Baseball games are about winning and losing. These kids are not just trying to win a game; they are trying to win at life.