HIGH POINT, N.C. — There seems to be something uniquely American about baseball.
Sure, the game was invented here, but there are similar games in other countries and much of the world now plays baseball as well.
But when a boy first connects solidly with a pitch, he’ll never forget that feeling.
“I look forward to hearing that bat crack in the spring,” said Bill Hutchens, as he settles down into his seat at BB&T Point, the new stadium where the High Point Rockers team plays.
His son, Gene, brought him.
“We came up here, came around here, looked up here and he was like, ‘Oh, wow, this is really nice,’” Gene said.
Bill is almost 90-years-old, he doesn’t get around well anymore. But his mind is sharp and he remembers playing baseball on a diamond that sat just beyond where the left field fence is at BB&T Point.
Bill dons his Korean War Veteran baseball cap. Getting to know dad as a veteran is a fairly recent revelation for Gene.
“I didn’t hear that much about it when I was young, about the military, because I guess because it was still fresh in his mind and it probably wasn’t a lot of pleasant thoughts, fighting in Korea,” said Gene, as we watches batting practice. “But as he has aged and I’ve spent a lot of time with him, in the VA system, I’ve heard a lot about it.”
They have very good seats for this game – seats that only they will have. The Rockers’ assistant general manager, Christian Heimall, has a special place in his heart for the military.
“My dad was full bird colonel,” said Heimall, with a proud smile. “And my two brothers are in the Army as well.”
He points to five seats, just up the third-base line from home plate. They all have desert camouflage coverings.
“These are seats that are solely for service men and women – retirees and those who have put on the uniform of our armed forces,” said Heimall, pointing to the seats. “You cannot buy these seats but we work with a number of organizations to find people to bring out and to honor and give them an opportunity here at the ballgame.”
As Bill’s stories attest, baseball has long been at the heart of life in High Point.
“Baseball has been in High Point for more than 100 years,” said Teresa Loflin, as she strolls through a new exhibit on baseball in town at the High Point Museum.
It’s what brought the town together.
“We can all pull together and root for the home team – isn’t that what the song says? And you know, so that’s what we want to do. It’s a sense of community and being together,” Loflin said.
They have memorabilia but what may be most inviting are the series of pictures from different decades of the teams – both school, the local industrial league or minor league teams – that line the walls.
“A lot of these pictures, the people are not identified,” she said. “So, we would love if people are coming out to the exhibit, there’s a clipboard set up over there, let us know who they are.”
The exhibit runs through the first week of July at the museum. The Rockers play at BB&T Point through the first three weeks of September.