Postcards from Fargo: Pacing, pitching and taking pictures
By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post FARGO, N.D. ó Rowan County pitcher Nick Smith entered Saturday morning’s opening round game of the American Legion World Series in the bottom of the sixth inning.
And it was crunch time for his parents, Bob and Trish Smith.
Trish usually gets up from her seat and finds a place where she can pace whenever Nick takes the mound, and Saturday was no different. Bob looked over his shoulder in Newman Outdoor Field and noticed Trish was already gone.
Bob Smith has a lot of confidence in his son, the fifth youngest of their six children.
“Outside, he’s laid back and calm,” the father said. “You never know inside.”
Smith hurled two good innings, keeping Rowan County in Saturday’s first game against Festus, Mo., until his teammates were able to rally for four runs in the eighth and take a temporary 4-3 lead.
Bob Smith and the Rowan fans around him came alive in that eighth inning, as Rowan erased a 3-0 deficit. A couple of hits, a walk, a double down the line and, all of a sudden, Rowan was only down 3-2 and Bob Smith was shouting, “Good gracious, we’re not done.”
Then a Billy Veal double tied the game, and Austin Shull’s single put the Rowan boys ahead.
The Rowan County crowd exploded, and the body language in the stands and on the field spoke a newfound confidence.
Nick Smith came out of the game in the bottom of the inning, and Trish returned to her seat much more relaxed.
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The Smith family knows how to deliver.
Bob has been a mail carrier since 1985, and he and Trish have double-teamed a Salisbury Post newspaper route since 1984.
Trish used to put Nick and his sister in car seats while she delivered the newspaper. It gave her a part-time job and still allowed her to be a stay-at-home mom.
Bob Smith said his oldest son, Marty, and Marty’s girlfriend, Michelle, took over the newspaper route so he and Trish could travel to Fargo.
Another good relief outing.
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World Series games are not for the faint of heart.
Ask Corbin Shive’s dad, who lived every pitch with his son, the opening game’s starter.
“It’s pretty nerve-wracking,” Brent Shive said. “You want them to do well.”
Saturday was the day Corbin was scheduled to move into the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for his freshman year. That will be delayed, of course.
His roommates will include former Rowan Legion and current UNCC baseball players Justin Roland and Ross Steedley.
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Festus (Mo.) player Daniel Rothweiler, who seemed to be a pest against the Rowan County team the whole game, was always greeted by the Festus fans with woofing sounds when he was introduced over the public address system.
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The public address announcer at Newman Outdoor Field has a sense of humor.
“I’m a little despondent this morning,” he told the crowd between innings of the Rowan game. “My wife ran away with my best friend, and I sure miss him.”
While the teams from Rowan County and Festus waited through a rain delay Friday night that ended up postponing their matchup, the P.A. man sent out this message:
“Festus, Festus, Missouri. Will a Miss Kitty please report to the press box?”
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I talked to several Festus fans Friday night and did some cursory Google research trying to determine how Festus, Mo., ended up with a name that most people associate with Marshal Matt Dillon’s sidekick in the old television series “Gunsmoke.”
A Festus mom called over several of the players because she was sure they had done a school paper on the town’s history.
Here’s what I have cobbled together.
The community, about 30 miles south of St. Louis, started out as Limitville in the 1800s but eventually gained the nickname of “Tanglefoot” because of its number of saloons and how people apparently tangled their feet when drunk.
Trying to clean up the image, the town fathers decided they would open the Bible to a random page, and the first proper name they came to would become the community’s new name.
The first name they saw, in Acts, I believe, was Porcius Festus, a governor of Judea in 60 A.D.
Since 1888, Festus has been Festus.
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Linda Robinson plays a lot of women’s softball, even at age 44.
She showed me the necklace charm around her neck that includes a ball, glove and bat grouping.
But a funny thing happened this summer.
“After my season was over,” she said Friday night, waiting out the rain, “I started going to the Rowan games.”
She attended the recent tournaments and decided on the spur of the moment this past week that she would travel by herself to Fargo to support the home boys.
With Priceline’s help, she bought a flight that took her through Washington, D.C., and Chicago on her way to Fargo. She arrived Friday a couple of hours before the scheduled gametime. She has to be back at work Monday at Community Bank of Rowan.
“I said somebody ought to shoot me,” Robinson said.
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By the early innings of Saturday’s first game, Billy Buchanan, father of Rowan pitcher Forrest Buchanan, had collected three foul balls.
The World Series allows fans to keep any foul balls that come their way.
The Buchanans gave one of the balls to Linda Robinson.
“I got a $700 ball,” Robinson said, hinting at the cost of her spur-of-the-moment trip.
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Forrest Buchanan’s performance on the mound this season has been one of the many bright spots for the Rowan team.
Tammy Buchanan said she and Billy were just proud to have Forrest be on the Legion team and have a chance to play under Coach Jim Gantt.
“It turns out he has had an awesome year,” she said.
The Buchanans traveled to Fargo with their younger son, Noah, a special needs child, who had his nose pressed to the airplane window the whole trip.
Noah also is fascinated with cameras and spent part of Saturday morning’s game camped behind a photographer, watching his every move.
Meanwhile, Tammy sat in the stands to the right of home plate and delighted in her ballpark nachos.
“This is one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in a while,” she said.
To save some meal money, the family also has been buying huge sub sandwiches from Wal-mart.
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Bryce Schroeder, 12, of Fargo, serves as Rowan County’s batboy for as long as the team stays in the tournament.
He’s a rising seventh-grader who said it’s fun to hang out with the older players and a much better way to watch a baseball game.
The rainy weather?
“It’s just another day here, to us,” Schroeder said.
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Early in Saturday morning’s game, I bumped into George Britzenhoff, an older gentleman from Boyertown, Pa.
George has no allegiances to any of the eight World Series teams or players, he just likes Legion baseball.
The 2009 Fargo edition is George’s 12th World Series, and he plans to travel to Spokane, Wash., for next year’s series.
The first Legion World Series he attended was in Middletown, Conn.
“It was close to home, I went, I liked it, and I just kept going,” he said.
Of all the teams he saw in the first round, George said he thought defending champion Las Vegas was the best.
Britzenhoff attended last year’s World Series in Shelby, N.C., which had to deal with remnants of Hurricane Fay.
“Boy, did it rain down there,” he said.
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Is it true the Red River is one of only two in the world which flows north?
The Nile would be the other.
Bob Smith asked me that question during a lull in Saturday morning’s game.
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WSTP sportscaster Howard Platt and I have been roomies at the Fargo Econo Lodge.
It’s a little place, and the bathroom sink hardly manages to hold our toiletries.
I was warned about Howard’s snoring, but I think he’s too tired to make a racket.
I’m just thankful the room has no hidden cameras.
We work back at our room sometimes. It’s not pretty to see me hunt-and-peck at the keyboard without a shirt on. And I had a start Friday morning when I woke up to see Howard making a live report back to Kent Bernhardt in Salisbury in his underwear.
That’s why we’re not in television.