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Wineka column from Fargo: With game rained out, team members enjoy the sights

FARGO, N.D. ó Welcome, earthlings. In advance of Friday night’s scheduled opening-round game against Festus, Mo., the Rowan County American Legion baseball team had lunch at Space Aliens, a restaurant that’s sort of like a Chuck E. Cheese’s on astronomical steroids.
In between their Neptune Barbecue Burgers and Star Wars-type games for prize tokens, several of the players sat down with me and shared some of their observations on Fargo.
First, let’s say they are surprised at how big Fargo is. The city of 100,000 people seems to sprawl from the Red River and offers a lot of things you usually find in bigger places.
Second, several of the guys are impressed with the girl-to-boy ratio.
“There are twice as many women around here,” Rowan pitcher Parker Gobbel said.
Many heads around the lunch table nodded enthusiastically in support of that observation.
The guys also think these prairie women are attractive.
Because they are corn-fed, no doubt.
“They need to get a Space Aliens in Salisbury because the waitresses are really hot,” pitcher Cody Laws said.
There are few complaints about Fargo, except for the absence of sweet tea, possible cases of pink eye making their way through the team and catcher Matt Miller’s pillow.
“Put in there that Miller’s pillow stinks,” said infielder Ethan Fisher, Miller’s roommate. “They call it ‘Stinky.'”
I’m sorry, but I failed to get a rebuttal from Miller.
Gobbel said the Rowan players have been told on several occasions by Fargonauts (my word) that they talk funny.
The same to you, the boys respond.
“They definitely hold their ‘o’s’ ó like Minnesoooota,” said Casey Little, an aspiring linguist.
These Rowan boys have become quite close the past three weeks. By winning the N.C. tournament in Greenville and the Southeast Regional in Sumter, S.C., and now playing in the double-elimination American Legion World Series, they’ve had no choice.
Before they left for Sumter, Team Manager Bob Lowman told the players to pack for two weeks, just in case they won the regional and had to immediately head off for the World Series.
The last few days in Fargo, waiting for their first-round game Friday night, has been frustrating and even tiresome.
Before getting some batting practice before Friday night’s game, the boys said they probably had been on a baseball field a total of 45 minutes since their arrival in Fargo.
Thursday, they had to wake up at 7 a.m. to be ready for an official team picture.
Thursday night, they attended a World Series banquet with Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller among the guest speakers.
After a long, grueling day of travel Wednesday, they attended a legion-sponsored cookout and movie.
Otherwise, they filled their down time by going to the Holiday Inn pool, playing video games, lying on their hotel beds watching television, shopping, getting gloves restrung and even jogging to the nearest Wal-Mart.
The musical tastes among the players are evenly divided between country and rap.
“I really don’t listen to rap,” Fisher complained.
“Country music puts me to sleep,” Nick Smith countered.
Fisher said many of the players, including himself, Miller, Laws, Zach Smith, Alex Litaker, Austin Shull and Billy Veal have been playing AAU baseball together since they were 10. Most played for a traveling team named the Diamondbacks, then kept playing together in high school and legion.
The players have experience in adjusting to the crazy tournament timetables, Fisher and Little said.
Did the lads from Rowan County enter the tournament’s opening round Friday feeling as though they were definite underdogs against the likes of teams from Missouri, Nevada, Connecticut, Maryland, Texas, Michigan and Oregon?
The boys acknowledged that the players on all of those teams seem physically bigger than they are, but that also was the case with opponents in the state championship and the Southeast Regional tourney.
Rowan County won both, of course, but several of the players Friday said they gained a world of confidence from that state championship victory in Greenville.
Size apparently doesn’t matter. Chemistry does.
“We play as a team better than anyone else,” Fisher said.
Many of the players’ family members began arriving Thursday and Friday in Fargo. Girlfriends were getting into town, too, and Fisher wanted me to mention how much he was looking forward to seeing his girlfriend. That would be worth numerous points, he explained.
“Nick’s got a whole busload (of girlfiends) coming,” one of his teammates announced.
“I wish,” Smith said.
And it was back to the Neptune Barbecue Burgers.

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