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Grace Ridge gets in the (baseball) game

Guest blog by Nancy Juliano, Grace Ridge resident and baseball enthusiast

Baseball season is in full swing at Grace Ridge, where residents have been to two minor league games and watched movies and a documentary about the sport.

There are a lot of lively discussions in the dining room and common areas too, about favorite teams and players. Resident Patricia Looper still feels that Pete Rose, former star of her beloved Cincinnati Reds, deserves to be in baseball’s Hall of Fame. Rose has been banned from the sport for gambling.

Most baseball fans at Grace Ridge root for the Atlanta Braves; North Carolina is in the team’s market area. Residents Bob and Garry Mallory lived in suburban Atlanta for many years and say they saw the team during its dominant 1990s title run. Besides games on TV, the Mallorys and other fans can follow the Braves through daily coverage in the Morganton News-Herald, included free for Grace Ridge residents.

Sylvia and Jim Whelan are die-hard Washington Nationals fans, and say they have arranged their television package to receive broadcasts of all of the team’s games. It’s not clear yet whether the loss of star outfielder Bryce Harper will hurt or help the team, Jim Whelan said.

My husband Frank and I each follow different teams: I, the Chicago Cubs and he, the Boston Red Sox. We’re able to watch both play nearly daily through a subscription to MLB.tv on-line and the MLB Network. Although we no longer live within driving distance of Fenway Park in Boston, Frank is actually better able to follow his team while living at Grace Ridge. Red Sox home games were blacked out in Connecticut.

The Mallorys and Whelans, Jeanne Hendrickson, Frank and I were among the 15 Grace Ridge residents who traveled to a Charlotte Knights home game on May 1. The Knights are a triple A team in the White Sox farm system. Doug Crawford, one of Grace Ridge’s longest tenured residents, and his daughter, Kim who recently moved in, were able to meet Doug’s other daughter in Charlotte for the game. That family, and Pat and Darryl Tilley rooted for the home team, who won. The Mallorys, Frank and I were for the visitors, because of their Braves affiliation. Rosemary Enos said she just enjoys the atmosphere of a ball park and company of her neighbors, and doesn’t really root for either team.

We witnessed Gwinett Braves outfielder Austin Riley, in what turned out to be one of his last minor league games, hit two home runs — one a 470-foot bomb to left-center. Riley was called up to the majors three days later and is now a Rookie of the Year candidate. But Grace Ridge fans knew him when.

There were 6 home runs total in the game. Jeanne Hendrickson’s late husband was an announcer for all levels of baseball play, except major league, so she had seen the most games by far. It was my and Frank’s first triple A game, but we’ve seen unaffiliated, single and double A, as well as many major league games.

John and Jean Hawes, (John is a Red Sox fan), and Jeanne and her daughter, Nancy Hendrickson, were among the van full of Grace Ridge residents attending a Hickory Crawdads game on June 5. The Hendricksons are St. Louis Cardinal fans but enjoyed the high-scoring game between the Crawdads — a Texas Ranger farm team — and the West Virginia Power, an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.

There are also minor league teams in Burlington, Greensboro, Kannapolis and Asheville, for North Carolina baseball fans to enjoy. The American Legion World Series, for talented high-school aged players, is held every year in Shelby. The Greenville SC Drive are double A team for the Red Sox. Their field resembles Fenway. Of course, we’ve taken the two-hour drive to see them.

At Grace Ridge, the Ken Burns PBS documentary “Baseball’’ just finished its 10-week screening in the theater, an “inning’’ or decade each Thursday night since the early spring. Baseball season was also welcomed in the Grace Ridge theater with the movies “Fever Pitch,’’ with Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon, and “Trouble With the Curve,’’ starring Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams.

Scenes for the latter film were shot in western North Carolina, and the plot involves a (fictional) high school championship game between teams from Morganton and Swannanoa. Later this fall, the Kevin Costner movie “Bull Durham,’’ filmed in Durham and Asheville, will be screened in the theater.

The season will be capped by a trip to the Flat Rock Playhouse in September, for a performance of the play “Rounding Third.’’ We’re looking forward to it.