What a game it was for seeing my first American Association game! This game reassured me that the game of baseball is still alive and well. With all of the rule changes, contraction, and everything else happening in affiliated baseball, I thought the old baseball most of us loved was gone. This game proved the opposite.
I started my 3 hour drive to Gary, Indiana expecting to see a new stadium, a new city, a new casino, and calling it a day. In between there, I learned some things about this league I never knew. I was very familiar with the league itself, but the only independent league game I watched was the Frontier League in 2011.
Before I get into the details of the game, let’s talk about the City of Gary, IN, and what it’s known for. Gary is located just outside of Illinois, and not far from Chicago. It’s known as an industrial city, especially in the steel industry. The stadium is called the Steel Yard. The home of The Jackson 5 is also in Gary. Looking back, I should’ve drove by there for some pictures, but I was so focused on getting to the ballpark at the time, and didn’t know about it.
It was a 4:00 game for the first Saturday evening game of the season. I was hoping to see a game under the lights, but was just happy to be at the game. I like to arrive a little early, and take in the peaceful atmosphere at the ballpark. This was something I never was able to do in 2020, so it’s been appreciated much more this year. The team store was nice, and at things priced very reasonable. I always get a logo baseball from the stadiums I visit to add to my gaming room. My first thoughts on this stadium were that it could easily be capable of being used by a team at the AA level. It can also hold a lot of fans.
When the game started, I had no idea the game I was in for. I’d just watched a game where no one could find the strike zone the week before, and I was expecting more of the same. Then I realized they play the baseball I remember and love the most from before. While it may not be this way every game, I could tell the teams style of baseball from this one game, which gave me a very positive outlook on everything. I never saw a pitch thrown any higher than 94 mph, but that didn’t matter. They were throwing a ton of strikes, and creating a lot of action in the game. For the most part, this was a very clean game. I learned that while everything is about velocity now, the game can still be played the way it’s always been played.
The game was tied in the bottom of the 8th, and Gary was able to put some offense together, and get a run in. The Railcats were 3 outs away from the game being over, but the game was far from over. Houston hit a tying home run right away. Houston had a runner on 2nd, and I saw something I haven’t seen in a long time that I thought was gone. (Continued below the video.)
After I saw this, I said “wait a minute, they might not have any of these new rules in this league!” I got to find that out just a few outs later when they went into extra innings. There was no runner on 2nd base! These rules were only made to accelerate time to get the game over with. We see things like that in youth games when they’re playing 3-4 games a day on the weekends to keep the tournaments moving. I’ll never understand how those rules were adopted by the highest level of the game, when they’re only playing one game a day. However, this league doesn’t use those rules, and I couldn’t be happier. Both teams had very smart managers also, that played the situations. They made pitching changes when they had to, and played the shifts very smart. There was talent, both playing and managing, that would be capable at the higher levels of the minor leagues.
The Railcats ended up winning in the bottom of the 13th inning, and had a nice celebration at the end of the game with their train horn! I’ll put that video below here, and my pictures from the game below the video. After the game, I went to the brand new casino just for fun. I was down, and hit a nice bonus to get back up, but wasn’t feeling very lucky, so I broke even and started driving back home. Next weekend, I’ll be going up to Wisconsin with my family, and will share some pictures in my next post. I have some personal things going on the weekend after that, and might be able to make it to a game at home that weekend for another post. After that, we’ll be in full swing at AP Ballparks, with weekend plans to be packed with ballpark experiences! Thank you for reading!