Two unique views of America’s pastime

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Ernie Bertothy

As a self-proclaimed baseball junkie, I find many ways to feed my need during the summer months.

Watching the game on TV, listening on the radio, attending the occasional big league game in New York and monitoring my fantasy team — those all work. Playing the game stopped being an option long ago.

Every so often I try to mix it up, get to different places and see the game from a different view.

My latest adventures took me to two places I have never watched a game. In the last three weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to see baseball from two unique perspectives — Williamsport, Pa., and Cincinnati, Ohio.

The first stop was the Little League World Series in Williamsport. I went on day one of the event and was pulled in almost immediately.

Moments before the first pitch of the first game, fans are reminded of the significance of the event. Teams from all over the world come to a small Pennsylvania town to take part in a global event.

Japan, who went on to win this year’s LLWS, opened against Curacao.

Formal introductions, both national anthems, ESPN cameras and a stadium full of about 5,000 spectators make the scene awe-inspiring. What’s more, the kids actually take the field and perform despite the pressure-packed situation before them.

And while the event takes on an international feel, the surroundings outside the field remind you that this is simply meant to be a baseball promised land — for people of all ages, from the all-stars to their proud families and friends to the neutral spectators who want a break from the day-to-day professional players.

As an added bonus, this year’s LLWS featured a team from Connecticut. Fairfield-American Little League became an amazing story, and in the day’s second game took the field to represent their town, their state and the entire New England region.

Fairfield’s appearance later in the day put a local face to the excitement of the tournament. It won the state and regional championships to earn the right to be there.

Luckily for me and any other local baseball fan, all you have to do is drive four hours to Williamsport and see it for yourself. If you haven’t, consider it next year.

For anyone that will settle for nothing less than the big leagues, traveling a little further west takes you out of the hustle-and-bustle of the Northeast and into a more relaxing atmosphere: the Great American Ballpark, home to the Cincinnati Reds.

The team has a rich history and happens to be atop the NL Central this year. The stadium, built in 2003 to replace the cookie-cutter Riverfront Stadium, showcases all the modern amenities without the frills of the new parks in the Big Apple.

The stadium honors the Reds’ past with a huge team hall of fame. Replica smokestacks beyond the right-center field fence represent steamships that once traveled down the adjacent Ohio River. There are “Toothbrush” light towers in the outfield, similar to those of Cincy’s old Crosley Field.

I was also lucky enough to see Barry Larkin, the Reds’ Hall of Fame shortstop, have his number retired before the game. You don’t see that every day.

In an ironic sort of way, the cheaper the seat, the better the view. And almost half the stadium’s seats are on the field.

Modern baseball meets its past in Cincinnati. While it’s not old or new Yankee Stadium, or Fenway for that matter, it’s a great place to watch a game.

Ernie Bertothy is a contributing writer to the Citizen’s News.