The Springfield Cardinals home opener was scheduled to be today but because of the coronavirus it was cancelled.
On the corner of East Trafficway and North Sherman, there were no lines and there was no buzz. What should have been a sea of red was empty.
There was no stadium music or walk-up songs blasting over the speakers. The only sounds were the wind and the cars that drove by.
No fans stood up and cheered for a base hit or a strikeout. The only things resting in the seats were specks of dust starting to gather.
Thursday was supposed to be the home opener for the Springfield Cardinals, but instead, the coronavirus pandemic has put a pause to the many small things fans have come to love about a trip to Hammons Field.
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Parking lots were unoccupied — no one was there to complain about how overpriced they are. Hot dogs, beer and peanuts were nowhere to be found as the concession stand shutters were closed.
The dugouts were vacant, and the only lineup cards hanging were the ones left behind by Missouri State on March 11 — a 13-3 win for the Bears in the most recent baseball game at Hammons Field and perhaps the final one in 2020.
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Players wearing perfectly white uniforms weren’t warming up in the bullpens or playing catch in the outfield. Instead of pursuing their dreams of reaching the majors, they sit at home waiting for the chance to pick up their gloves.
The concourse was empty, no shoulder-to-shoulder crowd fighting to get a look at the players riding around the warning track on big red trucks.
Cardinals General Manager Dan Reiter couldn’t be seen walking around in his Cardinal-red suit.
The infield dirt was mostly covered. The grass looked as perfect as ever and ready for a first pitch.
Seats in the luxury boxes remained stacked. The couches that typically sit around the concourse were the only things behind the bars. The scoreboard was off and there wasn’t a bat in sight. No kids played in the playground, and no one had the opportunity to chase after a foul ball.
The press box was deserted — you couldn’t hear the voices of Andrew Buchbinder and Nate Lucas giving you the play-by-play on the air, and no one was fighting in line for bratwursts and nachos in between innings.
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There was no chance for another opening night walk-off home run. Instead, the lights were off. It would have been a beautiful day for baseball — it was in the 60s along with some wind.
Despite all that was missed, the sun still came up.
More important things are going on in the world than a baseball game. But one can’t help but think that the first trip back to Hammons Field will be one to remember.
Whether it’s this year or next when more than 10 people can gather for a baseball game, sitting elbow-to-elbow around Springfield’s diamond, there will be a sense of our community conquering a difficult time in our lives.
A sea of red will come together again. When it does, let’s not take the little things for granted.
Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or join the conversation on Twitter where his handle is @WyattWheeler_NL. You can also sign up for his free “Bears Beat” newsletter by subscribing on News-Leader.com.