By Tom Hardesty | Assistant Sports Editor
Ah, spring. The air seems fresher, the sky looks bluer, the clouds seem puffier, and birds chirp happily as they flit about from tree to tree. But looks can be deceiving, as I discovered to my chagrin when I covered my first high school baseball game at the Record-Courier in early April 1994.
I was assigned to cover the Crestwood at Field contest, and before I left for Brimfield I looked out the window and saw a beautiful early-spring day, temperature hovering around the low- to mid-60s with sun-splashed skies.
I figured blue jeans and a T-shirt would suffice to watch the boys of summer, and with that I jumped in my car and headed for Brimfield. Upon arrival at Field High School, I made my way to the bleachers directly behind the backstop and sat down. This being the first baseball game I was assigned to cover at the R-C, I had left early enough to ensure that I would be there in plenty of time just in case seating was limited. Not to worry, however, as I had the bleachers almost to myself when I arrived.
Therefore, I took the opportunity to enjoy the nice weather and leaned back, stretched my legs out before me and basked in the warmth of the sun's glow as the teams warmed up. Soon, fans from both schools began to trickle in, and I couldn't help but notice that most of them were bundled up in winter clothing as if they were going to a Browns game in December, complete with heavy coats, hats, gloves and scarves.
I had not checked the weather forecast before I left Cuyahoga Falls, because I had deemed such a move unnecessary based on what I saw out my window. Still, I wondered if they knew something I did not. My question was answered after the first inning or two, when the warmth of the sun began to fade as it sank lower and lower in the western sky behind me.
The air got a little nippy, and an inning later, nippy turned to downright chilly -- and getting chillier. I tried my best to stay as warm as I could, blowing into my hands and rubbing them together, but that had little effect against the plummeting temperature. With nothing more than the thin fabric of my T-shirt to shield my torso from the increasingly cold air -- and the game barely half-finished -- I realized I was in trouble.
Soon, my T-shirt served no purpose whatsoever other than to make my attire at a high school sporting event socially acceptable. By this time I had been sitting in the bleachers for nearly two hours (thanks to my now ill-fated ultra-early arrival), and I guessed that the temperature had dropped to somewhere in the 40s. I was chilled to the bone, and there was no relief in sight: there were still a few innings left in the game, which itself was going at a fairly slow pace. The game was also close, so the prospect of extra innings was a real possibility. The cold air cut through me like a knife, and I was nearing my breaking point.
I glanced at the fans around me, which only made me feel colder than I already was: snug in their heavy winter clothing, sipping from steaming thermoses of coffee and hot chocolate, many of them huddled together in blankets and sleeping bags. And there I was, wearing only jeans and a flimsy T-shirt, nose running almost uncontrollably and not even a sleeve to take care of it, hands and fingers frozen to the point where I could no longer hold my ink pen, body shivering and teeth chattering so badly that ... somebody noticed.
"Sir, would you like some gloves. We brought an extra pair if you would like them. You look cold." It was the voice of angel. I turned around, half-expecting to see one -- and I did, a woman dressed in full winter regalia holding a pair of gloves out at me. I politely accepted, thanking her profusely as I slipped the gloves onto my hands. That was a start.
Soon, other fans were offering all manner of winter clothing, and warmth finally began to return to my body and feeling to my extremities. I managed to finish out the game, returning the items I had borrowed, and headed out of Brimfield with a valuable lesson learned.
I have never forgotten the kindness and generosity of the fans from Crestwood and Field that day -- and I have never forgotten to check the forecast before covering an outdoors sporting event.