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Sports commentary: Baseball fever

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Bedford-area fans must be pleased

By Mike Forster

  It's a good time to be a  pro baseball fan in Bedford.

That's because our teams are doing so well.  Of course, by "our teams" I'm not referring to any team that plays within our county borders.  Alas, we have no such entity.

We are, however, situated in a place that gives us rich choices as to what team(s) we might follow.

For starters, we have the Lynchburg Hillcats, which claimed the title of first-half champions of the Carolina League's Northern Division.  That means, no matter how the Cats do the rest of the season, they'll be in the playoff mix come September (August?).

Meanwhile, the three Major League teams I consider to be the most popular in Bedford are having tremendous seasons.

Take a look at the standings.  As I write this, the Washington Nationals are fending off the Atlanta Braves for the top spot in the NL East.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals are in the thick of the hunt for the NL Central crown.

It is quite logical that these three teams would be the most popular in Bedford.  Most of the allegiance to the trio stems from geographic proximity.

Of course, there are some outliers.  For example, Bedford's Messier family is made up of Red Sox fans, a nod to the family's New Hampshire roots.  Since that clan has contributed a city mayor (among others) to us, we'll give 'em a pass for being fans of the Beantown boys.

But, by and large, most folks in these parts are fans of one of the aforementioned teams.

You might be asking:  Why is it that those three draw the most support?

Good question.

Here's my take on it.  Way back when, as in before 1960, the major leagues had only 16 teams.  

The St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns, two of those 16, were considered the South's teams.  That's because every other team played in Yankee-land.

So, a lot of Southerners, including Bedfordites, adopted the Cards or Browns as their teams.

Then, the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1953, becoming yet another Northern team.

That left the Cards and the lowly Washington Senators as the best options for local fans.

In 1960 the Senators moved to Minnesota, becoming the Twins.

The Braves, meanwhile, shifted from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1965.

The Nationals had been the Montreal Expos, until they moved to D.C. in 2005.

Of all the cities with major league teams, Washington is the closest to Bedford.  In fact, it is 206 miles from the front door of the Bedford Bulletin to the front gate of Nationals Park, in D.C.

By the way, I still contend that the best way to catch a Nats game is to take the Amtrak from Lynchburg's Kemper Street Station.  The round trip fare is $56.

Parking anywhere near the stadium is going to run you between 30 and 40 bucks.  Factor in the price of gas and the hassle of driving into DC, and the train is quite an attractive alternative.

Anyway, the Nats are becoming more popular around these parts since a) Bedford is located in the Nats' broadcast zone (as is all of Virginia) and b) the team is actually playing some good baseball.

But, it is unlikely that the Nats will completely win over some of our hard-core Braves and Cardinals fans.

That's to be expected because the teams have rewarded their fan base, proving themselves to be among the most successful franchises in sports.  By the way, as a Cub fan that last sentence was quite painful to write, particularly as it pertains to the hated Cardinals.

Now you might be thinking:  Hey, Mr. Cub Fan, what's your excuse?

I have none.  I've stuck with the Cubbies over four painful decades.

But, I'm not blind to the possibilities this area has to offer.  In fact, the wife and I are taking the previously mentioned train this summer to catch a Nats game and to see a bit of our nation's capital.

We've done it before and found it to be a great experience.

You should give it a try.  It beats taking the train to St. Louis.