In the past four days, I have seen five sporting events. I attended my first Auburn softball game which was an awesome experience even though Auburn lost. What a great atmosphere on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
I attended an Auburn baseball game on Tuesday night. Plainsman Park is such a great venue for college football. Baseball has been a favorite sport of mine since childhood. College baseball puts you close to the field and allows you to watch athletes that are playing for the love of the sport.
The best baseball game of the past few days, however, was played by the Jimmy John’s team in Dothan, where my grandson, Will, playing second base and hitting left-handed, went 3 for 3 in a 9 to 6 win. Mary Lou and I were in the front row so we could catch every facial expression on our favorite seven-year-old. His mother will have to pressure wash his uniform before the next game since he slid into home plate every time though he was in no danger of being thrown out.
In another sport, we were thrilled to hear the “Touchdown Auburn” at the A-Day game, the conclusion of Spring practice for Auburn’s football team. It was a Spring game, but it was also a hint of things to come. The atmosphere was a reminder of what college football was just two years ago, and what we hope it will be this Fall.
Finally, we watched the Auburn golf team, along with other top collegiate teams, play in the past couple of weeks. While we were not able to see this particular match in person, our congratulations go out to the Auburn women’s golf team on their SEC Championship.
A couple of months past our second vaccine, my wife and I have begun a cautious entry back to life as we used to know it. These past few weeks have brought us so much pleasure. We remain cautious and prudent in our actions, but we also are embracing the wonderful freedoms that vaccines, along with some common sense, are enabling us to enjoy again.
In the past two weeks Mary Lou and I have savored a wonderful meal at a German restaurant at Compass Lake that we have not visited in two years. We have experienced a meal at a Mexican restaurant with some old and new friends. A favorite Italian restaurant was re-discovered.
We have begun attending church in person followed by Sunday brunch in a variety of restaurants in our community. My hat is off to the way that many of the top restaurants in Auburn and Opelika have handled the challenges of the pandemic. My hope is many of the best practices implemented during the past year will survive as society moves closer to normal.
In addition to a return to attending sporting events and eating at restaurants, we also enjoyed the first outdoor concert held at the Gogue Performing Arts Center this past Sunday. The Masters of Percussion were scheduled as part of GPAC’s Global Music Series. The music was outside of our normal range to begin with, as drums of various types along with a violin played with increasing intensity. By the end of the hour-long program, we were standing, along with the rest of the crowd, in appreciation of the performers’ talents.
Indian and Iranian instruments blended with the drums we are more familiar with to bring an East – West fusion of music, reminding all those in attendance that music is indeed our universal language.
The Gogue Performing Arts Center is one of the things we have missed most during the past year. Maintaining a connection when physical contact was prohibited has been a herculean task for their staff. The re-opening of GPAC’s performances was done in a thoughtful and responsible way. The outdoor performance was a bright star on the horizon in our journey towards returning to normalcy.
After more than a year of quarantines, masks, sheltering in place, and forgoing the hugs of those we love the most, the past few days have reminded me of how much I have missed some things during the pandemic.
Cheering on my sports teams. Enjoying food from around the world in the company of friends. Listening to talented artists sharing their talent. Sharing a handshake or a hug. If we remain reasonably careful, we have a chance to regain the life that we have missed so much. Like all of you, I am ready. Hopeful, and prayerful, but ready, nevertheless.
As my grandson would say, like his grandfather before him, it is time to play ball!
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org