Eight teams played Saturday in the Babe Ruth 13-15 World Series. Nearly 100 players saw playing time. Great baseball was played; highlight-reel plays were made.
But the star of the show was David Story Field.
In 2016, Lower Columbia College approved a $502,000 project to install new turf at the facility. If you didn’t already believe that to be money well spent after watching the NWAC Tournament or a Cowlitz Black Bears game at the now state-of-the-art facility, you should now.
Because without that spiffy artificial surface, Saturday’s Babe Ruth action probably doesn’t happen. The rain dumped before K-W-R-L’s morning meeting with Albany, Minn., and then tried to turn the series into a swim meet in the third inning of Mifflin County, Pa., vs. Torrance, Calif.
The third-inning downpour sent fans running for cover. Story’s turf looked untouched just minutes after the sun broke out again.
The rain came harder in the fifth inning, and Story won the battle again. A pair of short rain delays pushed the slate back a bit. Longview’s 7 p.m. nightcap with New Castle, Ind. started at 8:15 p.m. On lesser fields, the hosts would be playing Sunday morning.
I love the antiquity of dirt basepaths and the smell of grass infields. In the Pacific Northwest, that comes with its downsides.
A couple summers watching baseball played on this surface, though, has me changing my mind. The hops are smooth; balls act as they’re supposed to; there’s no funny bounces. The first game I watched on Story Field back in spring 2016 (before the new turf was installed), I saw a hard chopper leap 20 feet over the third baseman’s head.
This surface takes the luck out of things. You know what you’re going to get 100 percent of the time.
And now we know something else: the field is the perfect tournament venue. The NWAC Tournament, the Babe Ruth World Series — bring them all here. Because when that inevitable Washington weather comes rolling in, we can all take a deep breath, pull out an umbrella and wait the 15 minutes for action to resume.