Column: A memorable April evening at Ruxer FieldApril 13, 2021
By JIMMY LAFAKIS
JASPER - There’s something about country music at a baseball diamond. It’s tough to explain, but the music coats the field in harmony and forms a hand-in-glove fit.
As I strolled down Ruxer Field’s first-base concourse before Jasper’s game against Evansville Memorial on Tuesday evening, country music filled the air.
I am familiar with several of the classics, but this particular song was a new one for me — a tune I hadn’t yet heard at a field.
Florida Georgia Line’s “Long Live” provided a calming presence over the loudspeaker. The lyrics state, “Long live this way of life, long live nights like these. Long live, long live, long live, long live nights like these.”
Not 10 minutes after the song concluded, a gentleman said, “Boy, what a nice night for a game.” There are no coincidences in this world.
Folks from Jasper and Evansville packed the bleachers on Tuesday. Before everyone filed in, I took time to study some more of Ruxer Field’s nooks and crannies.
I was a sponge for 30 minutes — I absorbed all the knowledge I could muster. A special plaque honors Alvin C. Ruxer, the businessman and ballplayer. The plaque refers to him as “Jasper’s Mr. Baseball.” It reads, “He showed his love for the game in many ways: player, manager, sponsor, booster. In sports and in business, he inspired others to be the best they could be.”
I learned about Indiana Baseball Hall of Famers such as Roman Pfeffer, Don Noblitt and Ray Howard on Tuesday. Those famous figures furthered my knowledge. I took it upon myself to finish some of my self-assigned “homework,” so I read about Ruxer, Terry Gobert and Scott Rolen before I arrived in Jasper in September. A complete list of Jasper’s IHSAA Mental Attitude Award winners also lines the fence.
I thought about Shane
Werner, Jasper’s former groundskeeper who finished his tenure with a 10-0 win over Northeast Dubois on April 9. I can only imagine how many painstaking hours went into crafting the atmosphere.
I gained a newfound appreciation for the field’s backdrop while the game unfolded. St. Joseph Catholic Church looms larger than life over left field. I peered past the scoreboard and thought to myself, “If scoreboards could talk, what would they say?”
Tuesday’s scoreboard told a tale of stout defense. Jasper junior pitcher Connor Foley located his pitches and painted the corners with ease in the early going. Memorial senior southpaw Nick Coleman made for a formidable foe.
The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the sixth inning. Foley stirred some excitement with a deep solo shot over the left-field fence in that frame. Energy permeated through the stadium as he hustled toward the first-base dugout.
Memorial showed resolve and tacked on a run in the top of the seventh. The game reached a 1-1 stalemate, and dusk shrouded the air in extra innings.
Jasper loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the eighth. Memorial’s outfield came in, but Foley adjusted and sent a deep drive into right field. The ball dropped in the grassy area just short of the warning track.
Ball game. Jasper earned the 2-1 victory and improved to 5-0.
Long live nights like these.
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