Norwich - This is right about the time that, normally, we'd spend the next 700 words or so gushing about baseball's return to our corner of the world. Plenty of fodder, too, what with the bagpipes bagpiping and tailgaters tailgating, Opening Night, baseball night in Norwich.
Really, though, nothing more than a nominal attention span has been required to realize baseball's been here since April, in spite of the Connecticut Tigers' return Wednesday night.
Funny thing about the Tigers, the third different organization to showcase baseball at Dodd Stadium. They've made the ballpark ours. No longer is it the high rise on top of the hill with nothing more than rhetorical usefulness for the region.
Dodd Stadium has become a permanent yard for high school kids to celebrate league championships, college kids to play NCAA tournament games, parents to watch their children without sustaining Bleacher Butt and a backdrop for a big game feel. Even if in the cosmic scope, the games are, all in all, just another brick in the wall.
Dodd was home to scores of high school and college games this season. The 24-Hour Relay For Life. It was UConn baseball's auxiliary home field. It was even Switzerland between Boston College and St. John's, who played a game here in April (I am required by law to mention BC won) when the temperature at the final out was 47 degrees, unlike the 92 at Wednesday's first pitch.
The Tigers, whose home season in short season Class A doesn't begin until June, don't have to be so magnanimous. They've got to keep staff members here late for high school and college games, sometimes three in a day. And while it's not rent free, there are times when retiring to the living room to put your feet up beats some 47-degree night in April freezing your ascot off, rent or not.
"The only thing that makes a minor league baseball team successful is the community," vice president and general manager C.J. Knudsen said Wednesday night. "One of the reasons why we wanted to have a lot of high school and college games here is to showcase the field, the stadium and the product.
"It's important to let them know we're here and part of the community," he said. "We all live in the area. Sure, there are days when the hours get long, but at end of the day, if you work in minor league baseball, you're used to it. What's rewarding for us is when you see a boy or girl get a baseball or a high five. That makes the long hours worth it."
Pretty fun night here Wednesday, too, in spite of the Tigers' loss. Nice crowd. Postgame fireworks. And some resourcefulness.
The Tigers decided to forgo the ceremonial first pitch in favor of a ceremonial first kick. That's because a former Tigers intern is named Dave Teggart, the guy who authored the most famous swing of the right leg in the history of UConn football. It was Teggart's 52-yard field goal one night in Tampa that sent the Huskies to the Bowl Championship Series.
Dave returned Wednesday, stood on the outfield grass just beyond second base, and unloaded a kick toward home plate where the Tigers mascot stood. This just in: Teggart hasn't lost his fastball. That's probably why he'll be playing for the Chicago Bears this season.
The Tigers' opponent: Lowell, the Class A affiliate of the Red Sox. Lowell has a number of notable names that will either interest you or qualify as useless information.
No. 2 hitter: Matt Gedman, son of former Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman. To think Bob Stanley used to the pitching coach for the Connecticut Defenders, too.
No. 3 hitter: Kendrick Perkins. Clearly, Danny Ainge's least favorite minor league baseball player.
No. 6 hitter: Seth Schwindenhammer. That's 15 letters. If he makes the majors, he overthrows Jarrod Saltalamacchia for longest baseball surname ever.
No. 7 hitter: Zach Kapstein, son of Red Sox senior advisor Jeremy Kapstein. (He's the guy who sits behind home plate at Fenway wearing the big headphones).
See what you missed?
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.