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Remember: Allentown and the IronPigs

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Allentown and the IronPigs

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”

I figure that quote from Field of Dreams is a great starting point for a discussion of Allentown and the IronPigs. Last year, across the river, a baseball field opened. The city of Allentown was given its first professional sports team since The Red Sox left Whitehall in 1960. They erected the stadium on the east side of town in the middle of an industrial and manufacturing area that had grown rusty over the years.

The Morning Call ran a guide to the IronPigs last week that offered suggestions as to where to sit and what to eat but I have yet to see an article by anyone on what this team really means to Allentown. That’s where the Field of Dreams quote comes in.

It was odd last year to see the passion of a crowd cheering a mere hit in a multi-run wash out again and again. Folk heroes were made of men like Andy Tracy and Mike Cervenak just for posting decent numbers. This team, and those men in particular, were in no way playing for a playoff spot; they weren’t playing to break any records or win the championship. They were just trying to grab a couple of wins before autumn closed the season in September or maybe for the chance of a late season big league roster spot.

We cheered because we had nothing else to cheer for. The Economy was crashing, people were losing their jobs, there was a bitter presidential race burning across the news and through the ashes of a previous administration that wasn’t very well liked at its ending. Allentown was the way it had been for years. A bleak city, consistently on the precipice of a better tomorrow with nothing to push it over; This time though, Allentown had baseball.

The crowd became a family. Every game became a gathering, not just of baseball fans but of people looking for something; looking for anything but what they had been seeing everywhere they looked for thirty years. I remember hearing a few people tell me that they felt like they weren’t in Allentown when they visited Coca Cola Park. My mother being one of them; after I took her to her first game she looked at me and said “Allentown finally got one right.”

In its second year Coca Cola Park remains full of cheers and faces. The team is better this year. They have found some pitching stars in Kyle Kendrick and Carlos Carrasco. They have found their hitting stars in the young guns of Lou Marson and Jason Donald. The folk heroes of last year are still playing as well.
Marson, Donald, and Carrasco will in all likelyhood leave Allentown and journey to Philadelphia one day to ascend to the stardom that their talent promises. They will be replaced by players working to get their chance and that cycle will go on as long as minor league baseball is played in our city.

We however, will not be joining the Philadelphia Phillies. We will remain steadfast in our seats at the ballpark watching and cheering.

From the parking lot, the city of Allentown glows as you walk to your car after the game. The city looks peaceful with its ever present PPL tower beckoning across the distance, seemingly watching the car engines turn over and headlights turn on. It is as if the city itself can see one shining example of realized potential and possibility itself.

In our cars, fresh from our distraction we can feel good for an evening. That constant will be there. Baseball will be there, in our city. The various nights of fireworks will rumble across the skies of Allentown to remind us that there is in fact something here that is a beaming success, that there is something that worked out and most importantly, that there is something here to cheer for.



Blogger michael molovinsky said...

andrew, i commend you for this fantastic post; so well written, and so true. i am not a baseball fan, and i was not a supporter of the stadium concept; i was wrong. this stadium is a home-run, and you have just explained why, thank you.

May 13, 2009 at 2:18 PM  
Anonymous monkey momma said...

This was a beautiful post. Thanks for writing this!

May 14, 2009 at 6:57 AM  

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