The first pitch of the Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Tournament was on schedule Tuesday despite some overnight rain. The tournament’s official Normal debut came at 9:07 a.m.
Moments before Creighton’s Tommy Strunc unleashed the first delivery to Indiana State’s Landon Curry, an Illinois State staffer told longtime Redbird swim coach Steve Paska: “Keep the rain away. That’s your job.”
It seemed odd entrusting a guy who’s around water all the time to keep things dry. Paska accepted anyway, providing the first of many sights and sounds at the opening game of the tourney’s five-day run at Duffy Bass Field.
9:11 a.m.: “Whoa, come on blue!” a fan shouts. There are two outs in the top of the first. What took so long?
9:13 a.m.: A souvenir stand on the concourse offers assorted Missouri Valley shirts, shorts, hats, pins, etc. And a shot glass for $6. “We don’t promote that, but we’re realistic,” a volunteer said.
9:23 a.m.: Hot dogs are on sale for $3. It’s a ballgame. It’s America. It’s mine.
9:26 a.m.: The hot dog is history. Or is it, really?
9:27 a.m.: Creighton’s Federico Castagnini lines a single to left, the first hit of the first game of the first MVC Tournament at Duffy Bass Field.
9:29 a.m.: Castagnini is picked off first base. Tough to stomach, but hey, try eating a hot dog at 9:23 a.m.
9:34 a.m.: A sign reads, “Be alert for objects leaving the playing surface such as balls and bats.” It’s sound advice for a sportswriter trying to function before noon.
9:41 a.m.: A Creighton fan has a bandage around his right leg. Even fans are less than 100 percent this time of year.
9:49 a.m.: The hot dog is matriculating through the digestive tract. This could get interesting.
9:50 to 9:58 a.m.: A nice chat with former ISU coach Jim Brownlee. A good man doing what he loves most … watching baseball.
10:07 a.m.: The sun is beating down. Shorts might have been a good option. Or not.
10:12 a.m.: Curry walks to the plate to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” on the P.A. Welcome to the tournament, Boss.
10:13 a.m.: The first waft of sun tan lotion. It’s like you’re in Orlando, except you’re not.
10:15 a.m.: Curry lines a single to left. There you go, Boss.
10:19 a.m.: Curry out stealing. Sorry, Boss.
10:23 a.m.: Word is walkup songs are supplied at random by the Missouri Valley. Curry and the Boss were paired by chance, not choice. It’s oddly disappointing.
10:32 a.m.: A handshake with Jeff Stewart. All kinds of former Redbird coaches are in the house.
10:51 a.m.: Pantagraph sports editor nearly goes in the wrong restroom. Told you it’s early. FYI, the visit is not hot dog related.
11:10 a.m.: “Born in the USA” blares again during a pitching change. Sing it, Boss!
11:18 a.m.: Indiana State’s Connor McClain makes a diving catch in left field, saving two runs. It’s the tourney’s first web gem.
11:22 a.m.: The Sycamores’ Koby Kraemer lines a homer to left.
11:25 a.m.: The Sycamores’ Mike Fitzgerald lines a homer to left. Sense a pattern, here?
11:40 a.m.: ISU head athletic trainer John Munn reveals the towel he takes to the plate ump between innings is wet on one end and dry on the other for a wet splash, dry wipe kind of thing. “Not my first rodeo,” Munn says.
12:06 p.m.: Creighton’s Mike Gerber singles in two runs with two outs in ninth, making it a one-run game.
12:07 p.m.: A fielder’s choice grounder ends it. Indiana State wins the first game of the first MVC Tournament at Duffy Bass Field, 4-3.
It’s time to head back to the office to field phone calls, check emails and pay the price for the hot dog. The $3 was the easy part.