Thursday, May 29, 2008
I’ve played softball before well after midnight.
I was on the field in Double Springs, Ala., once upon a time until about 4:30 a.m. I got home, slept for a couple of hours and got up in time for church.
I can’t recall watching a sporting event until after midnight.
But that changed last week.
I took a rare day off work, and Emma and I drove to Hoover, Ala., for day one’s second session of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament.
The schedule said 5 p.m. – Ole Miss versus Georgia – and then 8 p.m. – Alabama vs. Kentucky.
Of course we were most interested in the Crimson Tide game but we also knew we’d pull for the Rebels.
I’ve experienced the four games in one day before at the tournament. Once Andy and I got back to the hotel room about midnight.
Game one started Wednesday of last week at 10 a.m. We tuned in on XM Radio while en route to Birmingham. South Carolina built a 4-0 lead over LSU – even taking that advantage to the ninth inning. Then an unbelievable LSU team rallied to tie, sent the game to an extra inning and won it with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th.
Great game, I’m sure, but the problem was it threw the entire day’s schedule off – way off.
We checked into our hotel, rested a bit and listened to the progress of the day’s second game. We left, stopped to eat and finally made our way to Regions Park in Hoover.
Lots of people were waiting at the gates, in hopes of soon getting in for the second session, which was already late.
Emma and I chose to stay in the car and listen to the Vanderbilt-Florida game on the radio. Finally, it ended, about 6 p.m.
We got our tickets, found our great seats eight rows behind first base and waited. The Ole Miss-Georgia game started at 6:45 p.m. instead of the scheduled 5 p.m.
It was a great game. Pitcher Lance Lynn of the Rebels was amazing. Ole Miss, the eighth seed, shocked top-seeded Georgia.
It was over about 10 p.m., meaning the first pitch of the Alabama versus Kentucky game was thrown at 10:45 p.m. That’s two hours and 45 minutes behind schedule.
There was a large crowd for the start of the game but a small crowd still there about 1:30 a.m. That’s when Emma and I left in the top of the eighth inning with the Crimson Tide trailing 9-3. That score held.
We found out later that morning, after a few hours sleep, that the game ended about 2 a.m.
I love this tournament. I’m looking forward to when I can go in my motor home (which is only imaginary at this point) to the park and hang out the entire five days.
But as a fan who had to buy gas at almost $4 a gallon and drive more than three hours one way, I was just a bit frustrated late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.
I saw Mike Slive, the SEC commissioner, interviewed after one of the games Thursday. He said he did not expect changes to the format. He said overall through the years it had worked and the coaches were OK with it.
I’d check with the fans – the ones forking out the money in support of the SEC Tournament. And I know a lot of them had to leave well before the Alabama-Kentucky game ended and some likely had to stay away – particularly those with young children who had school Thursday morning. And for me, one of the great things about the tournament is watching the kids – like the ones always gathered near left field racing for foul balls.
A couple of suggestions (ones Slive will never see I’m sure) – start the games at 9 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. and don’t allow 45 minutes between games. Cut it back to about 25 minutes.
The SEC Tournament will always be something I enjoy. This year was the first time I’d taken Emma. That made it particularly special. Our times together are dwindling since she will be going off to college in just over a year.
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