Senior Night, in terms of athletics, for most schools is typically a home game, maybe versus a crosstown rival. There is always balloons and player tributes and fanfare and lots of emotion. Players get to march out onto the court or the lacrosse field or the baseball diamond with their family members who have enthusiastically supported them over their playing years. Quick math for a Tuesday morning. Let’s talk about the baseball family member who attends games. You go to Tee Ball games, let’s say 5. The following years, that number goes up to 10 with Coach Pitch, Majors you add 12 to 15, Middle School add another 15 to 20, High School 20 to 30. Perhaps along the way, you child participated in an AAU or Travel program, you can add another 25, 30, maybe 50 games per year. There are holiday tournaments and friendship tournaments and district all star tournaments and round robin tournaments and “what’s the name of this” tournaments. So, what does that add up to? By my count – 800,000 games by the time your baseball player is a Senior in High School. Wow, that is a lot of games.
After nearly three full days of rain, Cranston Stadium opened its gates to welcome family and friends to a very special baseball game. As I stated earlier before the math lesson, most schools have Senior Night for their hometown team at their hometown field. However, last night I attended a dual Senior Night featuring Cranston West High School and Cranston East High School at famed Cranston Stadium, normally the home field for Cranston East. Family and friends gathered – Cranston East on the third base side and some behind home plate and Cranston West on the first base side stretching all the way out to nearly right field. Cranston East had the greens rocking. Cranston West was showcasing their reds. Family and friends hung up pictures and balloons and hugged each other and high-fived each other as the DJ filled the Cranston Stadium with super energetic music. Coaches from both sides greeted players in the stands and on the opposing team. Many of the players from East played on Little League teams or travel teams with players from West. Two prominent members of the Cranston Western Little League team, Gary Bucci and James Sweeney, were in opposite dugouts – Bucci for East and Sweeney for West. This game meant so much more than two high schools facing each other on a Monday night. Here are a few photos from pre-game.
A very entertaining PA Announcer got the Senior Night festivities underway as the two teams formed processional lines outside of each team’s dugouts. Family members were asked to join their respective Senior baseball player near the dugout areas. One by one, the PA announcer, who perfectly enunciated every syllable of every player’s name to the delight of me and the crowd, called out the names of the players and the family members who were walking them out to the field. Each player and their entourage walked through their team’s processional line out to about the pitcher’s mound, where they were greeted by members of their team’s coaching staff. Fans in the stands got to take tons of photos, videos as the players walked out with their biggest fans – their parents and family members. Remembering all those games, the travel involved, the sacrifices involved, the good and bad and ugly weather – for some this would be one of the last baseball games they would play. And for the family members, one of the last baseball games to attend and cheer. The emotions and memories and experiences at that moment of walking out to the mound had to be just incredible for those players and their families.
After receiving congratulations from their respective team’s coaches, the players and parents joined the rest of their teams on the first and third base lines for the playing of the National Anthem. It was Memorial Day and the National Anthem meant something even more special. Senior Nate Poshkus was called up to the press box to sing the National Anthem. Nate hustled from his spot on the third base line, walking gingerly in his metal cleats, up the bleachers and into the press box. Nate sang a fantastic rendition of the National Anthem in front of a growing and anticipatory crowd. That must have been quite a thrill for that Senior and his family. And then, the PA Announcer called out those words that every fan loves to hear “Let’s Play Ball.”
Three rain days would typically do a number on any baseball field. From what I could see, Cranston Stadium’s baseball field looked fantastic. Sure, I am confident the grounds crew had their hands full with puddles and mud piles and water piled up around the field. When I arrived, the sky was still a little cloudy with a definite breeze blowing across the stadium from third base to first base. Overall, the field conditions were safe and playable and I have to tip my cap to the crew who were able to make that happen for the Seniors and their fans.
I watched the game on the field but also kept an eye on the activity in the stands. Family members moved around the stands and bleachers and areas behind the backstop. They held up signs and reconnected with other families. Every pitch seemed like it meant something. Every hit, every base runner, it just felt a bit more elevated emotionally than your average 6:30 baseball game. Players would get on base and the opposing team were high fiving them. Two teams from the same city, you would think they would be at odds or something. But it really was a very different feel from what I was observing. It was more like a friendship game than a rivalry game.
I took a few photos from behind home plate, from atop and as far right as the first base bleachers would allow, then down along the left field lines. Cranston Stadium has some fantastic views and I tried to hit as many as I could last night. It was just so enjoyable seeing the faces of the families and fans and friends of these two Cranston High Schools being a part of Senior Night. On the field, when I departed, the score was very close, 2-0 Cranston East over Cranston West. I woke up this morning to learn that West had overtaken East and had won the game. Final score – Cranston West 6 – Cranston East 4. After all the rain and weather from the weekend, the sun came out for one special game in Cranston. I was so thrilled to observe and witness Senior Night for the Cranston East Thunderbolts and the Cranston West Falcons Baseball teams and their families. Great game and another great Rhode Island Baseball Experience.