POSTED ON JUNE 8, 2011:
Have a Field Day
The lights are nice, but day games bring out the best of the ballpark
Remember when Major League Baseball played World Series games in the afternoon? Me neither. But apparently the 1970 series was the last to play all afternoon tilts.
The reason MLB switched to evenings is apparent: more advertising dollars.
Meanwhile, fans remember when afternoon baseball was common and not a novelty. And we liked it.
"I think probably one of the reasons the (Chicago) Cubs through all these years have had such a strong following is all the day games at Wrigley," said Chuck Lamson, former Drillers majority owner.
The Tulsa Drillers get it. ONEOK Field has seen an increase in day games this year. And we like it.
For starters, the team is competitive this season. They are sneaky. No true superstars but rather a roster of grinders.
There is something special about a day game. The artificial lights are fun, but when the sun is beaming down on the brim of your cap, it feels special.
"One of the best things about baseball is that it gets played outdoors and under the sun," Mike Melega, the Drillers general manager. "We all spend most of our lives indoors so a chance to get outdoors and watch a midday game when we are normally at work or in school is always special. It brings you back to when you were a kid."
Here are a couple of cool items to remember. Sunglasses are a must. Sunblock for the fair skinned is a bonus. No need going home with sunburn and having a bad taste in your mouth. If you are hair follicley challenged, take a cap, wear it and thank me later.
ONEOK Field feels alive during the day. It is more of a family atmosphere. Don't get me wrong, evening games are special. Plenty of families enjoy the cool nights as well.
However when the sun is popping and patrons are bustling about is when the fun kicks in. Everything seems cooler when you wear shades.
"Playing midweek day games at ONEOK Field is even more special with the backdrop of the Tulsa skyline beyond the outfield walls," Melega said. "There is truly no other place in Tulsa I'd rather be during a day game."
The park's layout is conducive for foot traffic. Hordes of spectators loiter behind the third base side. And they like it.
At no point do you feel claustrophobic. The winds breeze through as you stand in line for food and drinks. Like most places, good deals can be had at the concession areas.
The best part is baseball geeks can keep in tune with the field. Meanwhile, non-baseball fans can turn their attention to socializing and meandering. The two representative groups are in the same spot with different intentions.
Beer and food choices are plentiful. With dozens of points of sales, you are never too far from an ice cold drink. And as the summer begins to sizzle, cold drinks are required.
The underrated facet is the sounds. The pitcher firing a strike smacking the catcher's leather is unique. Hector Gomez connecting the sweet spot of his bat with the ball adds another level of excitement.
The sounds that captivate the fans are usually from the stands.
Yelling at opposing batters is like riding a bike.
Concessionaires bellowing "ice cold beer" to thirsty onlookers never gets old.
Novices questioning professional players' base running skills while choking down on a Driller Dog always get a laugh.
As much as we love day games, they simply are not practical for organizations in 2011.
The evening games took over on a local level when work became the focus. In order to get families to the ballpark, the 7pm time was introduced.
"You can do weekday day games or Sunday afternoon games. It harkens back to the old days and Sunday afternoon picnics and that nostalgia and feeling," Lamson said.
Baseball is the only major sport played predominantly outside. If Tiger Woods still reigned supreme, you could make an argument for golf being a major sport.
Football stadiums decided to go with retractable roofs. These new stadiums can peel the top off, but it still does not feel like an outdoor event.
"When the weather is nice before it gets real, real hot, I don't think there is a nicer thing to do," Lamson said. "It is a spectator sport but you can be outside in the good weather enjoying that and enjoying the athletics."
Lamson does not miss the hours at the park. He does miss the workers and fans. He keeps busy these days and has only caught a handful of games. He plans to catch a few more before season's end.
And if you plan to catch a day game, you will have to wait. As the heat overtakes the city, start times will now be 7pm.
The final game of the season in September is a 1pm contest. Otherwise, you better think baseball early in the season next year.
Visit tulsadrillers.com for schedule and ticket information.
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