Night of memories is worth repeating

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Chad Guimond patiently answered two or three queries about his first pitching start of the season for Lewiston High School, six-plus innings and a no-decision in the Blue Devils’ 8-7 loss to Edward Little.

Then he took his first step toward auditioning for a gig on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight.”

“Now let me ask you a question,” Guimond requested. “Was that good? Was that fun to watch?”

Um, yes, and very.

Night baseball returned to the Twin Cities on Thursday evening, a few decades late, but not even a whisker short on entertainment value.

Several hundred splendidly behaved and hoarse spectators watched Edward Little’s Justin Ciszewski lace a line drive through the box with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, plating John Alexander to end a wild one.

Makes you wonder how many fans actually knew the game was over, that it was already in extra innings, and that high school varsity games traditionally go seven. A majority of them didn’t attend another game all season. Most of them couldn’t.

“Oh, this made it great,” said Ciszewski. “We had friends from other teams here cheering us on because all the other practices and games were already over.”

Purists loudly boast of baseball as the only game not governed by a clock. Well, baseball in Maine is the only high school sport completely stripped of its ambience by a clock. That is, the one on the wall.

High school baseball faces the opposite problem of Bud Selig and ratings-hungry Major League Baseball. World Series games start too late for the kids, but schoolboy games commence about three hours too early for the kids. And everyone else.

Limited by daylight, and a lack of artificial light, schools are forced to start games between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. Which is when the average non-baseball player is either practicing the shot put with the track and field team or flipping a burger on the 2-to-6 shift.

You can forget about parents, too, other than self-employed ones.

In the last decade or two, most school districts and athletic booster clubs have raised enough money to install lights on one, all-purpose field. Football, field hockey, soccer and lacrosse teams get to share the glory and the starting times after sunset.

Those baseball diamonds? They’re just not versatile enough to merit bulbs. Consequently, baseball plays its six-week season in cold, rain-soaked anonymity.

But not here. Not on this night. Coaches Scott Annear of Edward Little and Todd Cifelli of Lewiston plucked the necessary strings with their athletic administrators and the properly equipped Auburn Suburban Little League complex to give Baseball’s Battle of the Bridge the stage it deserved.

“Being behind the plate and looking out and seeing those lights all around you, it was like being in the big time,” said Lewiston catcher Ryan Lagasse. “You could visualize yourself being in Fenway Park.”

The hosts were equally grateful.

After its extended post-game huddle in right field (the safe assumption is that nobody wanted to leave), Edward Little jogged in tandem to shake the hand of the guy who was busy raking the pitcher’s mound.

He was Auburn Suburban Little League vice president Larry Gordon. It was no symbolic gesture. Thursday’s previously scheduled game at the complex had to be postponed in order to free the field for the high school students.

Was it worth it? You bet. And assuming both that the little leaguers stick with the national pastime and the schools resolve not to let this be a one-and-done event, it’s guaranteed that the younger kids will see it the same way, someday.

“This,” said Lagasse, “needs to happen every year.”

Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. He can be reached by e-mail at koakes@sunjournal.com.

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