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Back on the Diamond

With a quick crack of the bat and a hum of the Marcusen Park crowd, summer officially arrived in Austin Wednesday night.

After lying dormant for much of the past year, Marcusen was alive and booming as the Greyhounds opened their amateur baseball season in front of a relatively large crowd.

Austin native and current Air Force Academy assistant baseball coach Steve Serratore was on hand to spray down the field and prepare it for the first pitch. He said the sight of a baseball field with fans in the stands and players in dugouts was a welcomed one for him.

“It felt like a normal day, even though I don’t come home a ton,” Serratore said. “People just want to see the boys play ball and they want to see people they know. That’s kind of the beautiful thing about town ball is it has always had that. In desperate times it’s caught on and hopefully it can kind of continue in the years to come.”

Sports have been on hold across the country since mid-March, but amateur teams began playing in Minnesota in the past couple of weeks. The Hounds started to fill out their schedule as soon as Gov. Tim Walz announced last week that summer sports could go on.

It has been a long wait during the shutdown, but Serratore said it was nice to see the park that he grew up around full for a night.

“It’s been a really tough situation that just kind of came overnight. We were set to play the University of Minnesota the day this happened,” Serratore said. “It was tough, but this is awesome to see. The park hasn’t been filled up like this in a long time and I think it shows the level of love for the game and love for the park. It’s fun to see people around again.”

Community events have been few and far between since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, but Wednesday’s game certainly had the feeling of a public gathering.

As the Hounds and Braves battled on the diamond, fans exchanged pleasantries, a few youth baseball players snuck into the cages and took some swings, and a group of local basketball players were playing a full-court pick-up game across the street at Lion’s Park.

Lyle-Pacelli head baseball coach Brock Meyer was the one working with the kids in the batting cage. He has two sons of his own who are missing out on a summer of All-Stars baseball.

Meyer has been working with his L-P players this summer in case the fall high school sports season gets swapped with the spring season for the upcoming school year. He said it was nice to sit back and watch baseball in Marcusen, where the temperature hovered around 70 throughout the night.

“It’s great to have live baseball back, especially when some of my former players are out here. It’s a sense of normalcy,” Meyer said. “We try to stay apart from each other, but people want to get together, they want to get out of the house and they want to watch a baseball game. I don’t remember the last time we had this many people here. People are itching to do something.”

Dan Ransom is another All-Stars coach who was in the crowd on Wednesday. He didn’t completely lose the summer as he has been able to set up a chance for his players to play 12 games in the Twin Cities as an independent team and he’s hoping to get a couple of home double headers in as well.

Mostly, he just wants a chance for kids in Austin to enjoy the summer after a long wait that began in March.

“It’s been challenging for me and the boys. They want to play and I want to coach,” Ransom said. “Tonight is awesome for everyone. They want to be outside and baseball is a great way to do that. I hope everything works out and hope everyone stays healthy and we can continue to play.”