"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks."
John Muir

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Play ball!!!

"Bedtime" has little meaning in Fairbanks in the summer.
Particularly during Solstice Celebrations.
The Fun Run over, the downtown block party visited, we got our tickets for the annual ballgame played on the official first day of summer, June 21st this year. Fairbanks' summer league team of college players, the Goldpanners, has seen more than 200 young men go on to play professionally. Barry Bonds, Tom Seaver and Dave Winfield are some of the famous former Goldpanners.
ESPN lists the game as one of its 10 must-see events.

The fans were insane!
Cheering and shouting and wearing the T-shirt.
We didn't know this guy, but he was happy to model the shirt for us.

Playing baseball into the morning hours without artificial light
has been a Fairbanks tradition since 1904.
This baseball game begins at 10:30 pm and guarantees it will play without
ever turning on the lights. Rumor has it that the lights aren't even plugged in.
But, being first-timers and all, we wondered if it could really happen that way.
You see, the rain started at the first pitch and just wouldn't let up.
The sky was leaden with wet, heavy could cover.

Until this day, I mean night, I'd never sat in the pouring rain watching a baseball game.
I've had my share of soakings while watching soccer, track and cross country.
But the beauty of baseball was that the games were "called" for rain.
Not here. Not the Midnight Sun game. Not ever.

The fans cheered. And yelled. And ate hot dogs. And crammed the stands to overflowing.
And the rain continued to pound us all.
It certainly didn't appear to dampen any spirits, however.

And this longtime umpire just couldn't believe it!

We hunkered down under our umbrella, trying to stay somewhat dry and yet not block the view of those behind us. We couldn't quite understand the strange "tradition" of a 5-man, or in this case man, woman, children, bike that circled around the diamond between one of the innings while a young woman sang the Alaska state song.
These most rambunctious fans sang along with gusto.
Do I even know my state song? Do you?

Being cold AND wet are a combination of conditions I really don't care for.
Besides, I couldn't even sing the song.
And whenever it was our section's turn to do "the wave", the umbrella got caught in my hair.
I was quite ready to call it quits when we noted it was almost midnight!

At that exact moment the heavy, gray, sodden clouds opened a bit to the northwest.
The pace of our heartbeat began to quicken when we realized we may just see
that midnight sun, after all...

And we DID!!
Very soon that sky opened up and blinded us all at that ballgame!
Still fairly high from the horizon, Mr Sun sparkled and shone, winked and smiled
and chased away those clouds in an instant!
The game paused, the noisy crowd hushed and we all grinned and squinted at the brilliance
and strength of that golden sun, shining in the midnight sky!
The rain stopped, the sun lit up the field and players and the game went on until 2 am.
I don't admit this to just anyone, but we left before then.
Just to go play around in the brightness of the night.
There is magic in the longest day in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

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