"You’re where?” Sylvia asked?
I gulped, feeling like a naughty child. “I’m in Charleston.”
“As in West Virginia?” she asked incredulously. I knew I should have skipped Sylvia and just called Annie.
“The same,” I replied, looking out my Embassy Suites window at the parking lots, empty streets, and electrical power station below, and the green hills that spread beyond them. It was 7:00 Sunday morning, and I had been up since 6 am, watching the sky grow light much later than it did in Pittsburgh.
“When did you decide this, and why?” she asked. I could hear the disapproval in her voice. I’d been taking a lot of road trips lately, not spending much time in Pittsburgh, and will be leaving again next week for the long Labor Day weekend in Naples.
"I’m going back to school tomorrow which means today is my last day of summer," I said. "I couldn’t let the summer go by without at least one Power game.”
"No, I’m perfectly serious.”
"Weasie, you just got back from your meeting in Reading. Are you telling me that you spent the night at your house on Friday, turned around, and drove to Charleston on Saturday just for an old baseball game?”
"I am," I said.
"Because I love Charleston and I love Power baseball, and a Power game is not just any old baseball game.”
And there it was. It wouldn’t have mattered what Sylvia or Annie or anyone else had said. I couldn't let summer slip away without a Power game, which I decided on a sudden impluse. And it was a smart move on my part because I had an absolute blast. Just like I knew I would.
There is something completely irresistible about Power Baseball and Power Park. It is the magic of oldtime baseball, the way it used to be, a family event. I cried (as usual) during The Star Spangled Banner, I got to watch my Mr. Toast, aka Toastman, aka Rodney Blackstone, assistant mayor, ridicule at least 4 players from the Lexington minor league team who struck out, I watched not one, but 4 mascots surrounded by laughing, wiggling children (representing four forms of energy, see illustration above), I got soppy over “Country Roads", sung by John Denver with the help of about 2,000 fans, I watched 3 bats split on impact, I saw 2 homeruns, I videotaped people competing for prizes in silly sideline games and races during timeouts that made me laugh, I swayed with all my neighbors and sang, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, I watched a player get thrown out of the ballpark, I made a best friend with one of the vendors, I became friends with a couple I met, Mike and Lynn, hopefully with whom I will sit during subsequent games next year, and I saw toast flying every which way. Like I said, I had an absolute blast.
3 Memorable Power moments in no particular order
Memorable moment no. 1: When a Lexington player yelled mean, hateful things to the ump and got kicked out of the game, Toastman was well-prepared with a doll-sized figure of Darth Vader that he waved in front of us, while he led our section in, “Vent! Your! Anger!!” that was followed by: “The Dark-Side / of-the Force!” When the unfortunate fellow walked off the field from the dugout, trudging around homeplate, past first, and then out of a small door in the back of the field, slowly and with his head lowered, obviously memorizing the grass beneath his feet, I watched a wave of fans move along in the stands next to him, taunting, booing, clapping. I have to admit, I felt sorry for the guy. It must have been the longest walk of his life.
Memorable moment no. 2: Outfielder Darren Ford broke the Power's single-game, stolen base record, and play was halted while he was presented with the base (2nd) he had just stolen. Then we waited a few minutes while the bag was replaced on the field.
Memorable moment no. 3: A man was randomly selected from the crowd, and with camera sending the image straight to the scoreboard, he was asked a trivia question about Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr., with the understanding that if he answered right, everyone at the game would be able to present their tickets to a certain local restaurant for a free bucket of chicken wings, with their dinner. I repeat, everyone in the stadium. There were at least a couple thousand people in attendance that night. This offer was extended twice with two different participating restaurants. This underscores the incredible community support behind Power baseball.
I think I said it best last summer when I wrote “The Toastman Prophecies”. Joe Mock, of baseballparks.com, liked the piece so much that he featured it on his webpage for quite awhile. What can I possibly add, except to assert that I will always love Power baseball. Which could explain why I’m kicking myself all over the field for only going to one game this summer. Maybe next year, I can buy a series of tickets and sit right behind Mr. Toast, the Toastman. I could even catch a piece of toast. That would be almost heaven.