Montgomery—it’s a quiet evening. I’m at Riverwalk Stadium, the sun is already low. The sky is pink. This is nice baseball weather.
I’m here early, before the first pitch. I came to this ballpark because rumor has it that this is where God lives.
I’m not joking. They tell me He hangs out over in section 105 sometimes. They say He’s a committed fan who attends every Biscuits game. And he’s seen the Major League greats come through this Minor League park. David Price, Jonny Gomes, B.J. Upton, and Evan Longoria.
You can’t see Him, they tell me, but He sits in row 2, right behind the third-base line.
“Where you wanna sit?” the ticket clerk asks me.
“Section one-oh-five,” I tell her.
“You know there ain’t no net over there.”
“Yeah, I know.”
I pay her. I enter the stadium. There is organ music playing overhead—sort of like church.
The first man I meet is old. He uses a walker and shuffles toward the hotdog vendor. On the back of his jacket are military patches. Special Forces badges, Army badges, a badge representing the Purple Heart. He is something to see.
I order the same thing he does. Our onions hiss on the hot steel. The server places dogs in buns. I dress mine with too much mustard and kraut—the way my father taught me.
The ball players are warming up on the grass. They touch toes, twist backs, roll shoulders, loosen neck muscles.
I take my seat.
Section 105 is nearly empty. I’m looking for signs of the rumored Big Man Himself—long white beard, sandals, shepherd’s crook. After all, I’m a writer. A writer’s job is to chase down rumors.
There’s the first pitch.
The smack of the catcher’s mitt is so loud it makes my hand sting.
This sound brings back every memory I ever had with a ball. Games in our backyard. The time my father held me above his head after a county championship. Ice cream cones after Little League practice.
An old woman sits behind me. She’s keeping score with scorecard. Her name is Matty.
She wears wire-rimmed glasses, smells like Estee Lauder, she sips Coca-Cola. It’s not every day you see a Kathryn Tucker Windham impersonator at a ballpark.
“I love the Biscuits,” she says. “My daughter’s come all the way from Tuscaloosa to meet me here tonight.”
She sips her Coke with a straw, then re-applies her lipstick.
Then thunder. Then rain.
A drizzle turns into a light pour. Fans leave seats, but the Biscuits keeps playing. I guess you can’t stop baseball when He’s in the stands.
Though, I’m still looking for Him. A white-bearded deity dressed in robe and halo with a voice like Charleton Heston. No luck.
But I do meet a family from Auburn. They came tonight because it’s the oldest boy’s birthday. He loves baseball.
He is seventeen, wearing camouflage cap and boots. He had spinal surgery last year. He will never play ball again, but he will never quit loving it.
“Maybe I’ll be a Major League scout one day,” he says. “Or a team trainer or something. I ain’t quitting baseball, ‘cause I ain’t a quitter.”
The night goes by fast. The Biscuits beat the opposing Jackson Generals until earwax pops out of their ears.
When the game finishes, I get my photograph made with the mascot named “Big Mo.” Then, I buy a thirty-dollar cap.
On the way out, I run into the old man with military patches. I ask how his hotdog was.
He answers, “It always tastes good when they win.”
I passed Miss Matty and her daughter. She told me: “Take care, sugar,” as though she’d known me my entire life.
And I saw that seventeen-year-old, waiting by the railing near the field. He was asking players for autographs. The boy walks with a stiff posture and erect neck.
He’s no quitter. That’s what he told me.
It was one of the nicest nights I’ve had in years. The beer was cold. The hotdog was good. The spirit of my late father sat beside me.
Admittedly, I didn’t see anything supernatural in section 105 like I expected. But I saw people. Kind people. Good people, with holy stories that would take your breath away.
So the rumors must be true.