Since I love team names that feature grammar and baseball plays, what could be better than a name that puns the punctuation mark within a city’s name with the fleet-footed run from the batter’s box to first base! The Dash. From Winston-Salem. Not that the team wants to flee the city or its smoky heritage, but you get the drift. Add to that double reference the fact that the team’s name is a collective singular noun, a feature that underscores the group unity of teamwork, and you can see why I am so taken with Winston-Salem's dashing name.
While I delight in word play about the Dash, what made the Winston-Salem game most enjoyable was that two former colleagues from Whittier, Laura Ammon and Randy Reed, drove down from their home in the mountains to join Bonnie and me for the game and dinner later in the evening. A specialist in the history of Christianity, Laura began her association with Whittier when she was appointed to replace me during my previous sabbatical leave during the late 90s. For several years thereafter, she continued to teach courses in religious studies while completing her Ph.D. at Claremont Graduate University. Her husband Randy, whose expertise lies in the studies of methods and theories related to religious studies, also began to teach for us while he completed his dissertation at my alma mater, The University of Chicago Divinity School. Incredibly, both now enjoy tenure-track appointments in the same department at Appalachian State University!
Two hours before the scheduled start of the game, violent thunderstorms rolled in and lightning struck in the parking lot adjacent to the stadium. As the rain slackened I still needed to complete a sound check on the field, and although the violent portion of the storm had passed, I wondered whether the battery powered microphone might attract lightning.
As skies cleared and fans began to pour into the ballpark, they were greeted by members of the Knights of Columbus who passed out small flags in honor of upcoming Flag Day. What a great photo opportunity—a patriotic celebration by a religious group. I reached into my computer bag for my camera and realized that it was still on the dinette table in Arby, which was docked at the Zooland RV Park 50 miles away in Asheboro.
Although it was a Friday night, you might have thought that the ballgame in this North Carolina enclave was an ecumenical conference. Not only were the K of C from the Holy Family Catholic Church greeting fans; according to the welcome board, there were also groups attending from 5 Baptist churches, 2 Episcopalian churches, an independent religious community, a Catholic church, and a Moravian congregation. The series of groups could almost be sung to the tune of the 12 days of Christmas—a unifying celebration for which, like this baseball game, all of the diverse religious groups might gather together.
Given the throng of church folk in the audience, it’s ironic—by omission—that my introduction to sing the anthem didn’t refer to the fact that I’m a professor of religious studies. A more explicit irony was connected to my introduction. My identification was prefaced with the sponsoring phrase: “Performing tonight’s anthem is Winston-Salem Journal National Anthem finalist and Whittier College professor Joe Price.” What an irony!? Several days earlier I had sent the Journal’s sports department a news release about me singing the anthem for the Dash’s game, and as usual my email got ignored, not even provoking a form reply. Yet now, getting ready to sing the anthem, I was claimed to be a sponsored finalist for a publication that had refused to recognize the anthem performance project that I have undertaken!
For only the second time on my tour, the team made a video of my performance. So there is some visual record of the ballpark and the Dashing fans. (You can see it by clicking on the movie screen at the top of this page. I always am reluctant to post the in-game performances since the acoustics at ballparks make hearing oneself difficult.) On my way to my seat following the anthem, I was surprised by one woman’s comment, especially in North Carolina: “Thank you for not singing it country.”
The Dash’s mascot Bolt was among the most energetic and inventive on-field entertainers that I have seen in the first forty games of the season. In one of his routines he pretended to pilfer balls from the umpire’s bag and then to pull out size 60 or larger briefs. The crowd roared. The underwear was so large that a later promotion could have featured a yoked race with two children using the leg holes of the underwear as waist bands to run in contrast to another pair of runners similarly tied together. Bolt also surprised me during one of the mid-inning give-aways. While I was talking to Randy and Laura, he threw a soft souvenir ball toward me. Bonnie said, “Look!” I turned, and with instinctive reactions uncommon for me, caught the spongy, small ball, a first for the season!
As was the score: The Wilmington Blue Rocks dashed Winston-Salem’s hopes for starting their home-stand with a win. Swatting five of their six hits for extra-base, including a couple of homeruns, Wilmington won 4-1.