No joy in ‘Mudville’

The dugout open and waiting for Pirates to enter, but the condition of the field was not good for the rescheduled game on Saturday.The dugout open and waiting for Pirates to enter, but the condition of the field was not good for the rescheduled game on Saturday.

by Mark Anderson

SHEPHERD (a.k.a “Mudville”)—In the year 1888, Ernest Thayer authored a very famous poem called “Casey at the Bat.” The last two lines are the infamous words, “There is no joy in Mudville; mighty Casey has struck out.”

If Ernest Thayer had lived in Shepherd, Texas over this past week, the poem would not have had such a dramatic ending. After the spring deluge of 2016, Thayer’s words might well have been, “There is no joy in Mudville; a wet field won’t let Cody Crowder bat.” Yes, Thayer would probably have written it better, but this writer makes no claim to being a poet.

The deluge of 2016, which began a week ago Sunday, dropped eight inches of rain onto the baseball field in Shepherd, Texas. While rumors of players paddling life rafts on the field are unsubstantiated, the fact is, the baseball field is a royal mess. The rain did not let up this week. A game was rescheduled for Saturday at Shepherd against Liberty. Saturday may have been the prettiest day for a baseball game this entire calendar year. Because of the rain, and the wet field, the game was cancelled—again.

There is a good chance, that if polled, the Shepherd Pirates would all agree on one thing right now. If there is anyone in Shepherd praying for rain—make that anyone in Texas—please stop. Now. The rain certainly was not stopping.
There are some benefits to all this rain, however. The first benefit is to the field itself. The grass has not been greener the entire spring as it is right now. In that respect, the field is beautiful.

A second benefit is to the players themselves, at least in the short term. The pitching staff has been beleaguered with sore arms, and pitching has been as thin as ice in a glass of warm tea in Texas in mid-July. This week off may give at least one of the ailing pitchers the extra week needed to recover.

Just as surely as there are benefits, there are also drawbacks to all of this rain for the Pirates. The first drawback may come in the form of timing. Hitting in particularly is about timing. With a week off, and players not able to hit live pitching, whatever sense of timing they may or may not have had may evaporate when—or if—play resumes Monday.

The bigger drawback, however, is the effect on the scheduling of the rest of the season. In an effort to not lose too much ground to the deluge, the Pirates are scheduled to play not two, but three games this week: Liberty on Monday, Splendora on Wednesday, and Huffman on Friday.

That schedule is rather tentative at best at this writing. Sunday brought a bit more rain—and the possibility of yet another rainout—to the Shepherd area. If those rains are as heavy as what Houston experienced earlier in the day, the chances of the field being ready for play Monday are very slim, and that is stating it very optimistically at best.

There’s little doubt the Pirates are looking for the life preservers for this 2016 season, both literally and figuratively. There’s not enough drying element in Shepherd to keep up with this deluge, which seems to have a “will” to continue. Hopefully, the monsoons will pass by Mudville soon enough for the Pirates to salvage what is left of their season.

Right now, there is no joy in Mudville, for Cody cannot come to bat. Hopefully, that will change soon. When it does, a word of advice to those attending the games: bring insect repellent. Remember, Noah forgot to swat the two mosquitoes on the Ark. As wet as that baseball field has been, it is an absolute certainty there will be more than two of them there.

That is what happens here in Texas when baseball fields get flooded and games get cancelled. It is about the only certainty going forward for the rest of the 2016 Pirate season.

It may not get much better. What is the forecast for Wednesday and Friday? You guessed it—rain and more rain.
Welcome to Mudville.