I went to Kinston last night to see the Kinston Indians during their final home stand of their 25 years in this historic Eastern North Carolina town. Next year the Indians will move to Zebulon NorthCarolinawhere they will be called the Carolina Mudcats.
The game was the K-Tribe’s first at Historic Grainger Stadium since Irene left her murderous swath of destruction across the state and up the Eastern Seaboard. The home stand was to begin last Friday but Irene forced the Carolina League to move the weekend series against the Lynchburg Hillcats to their home in Lynchburg Virginia.
The first game back showed how deeply Irene hit Kinston. Only a few hundred fans were at the game when normally this time of year with the team contending for a playoff berth there would be several thousand fans in attendance. This was largely due to Irene’s damage. There was storm surge along the Neuse River and surrounding streams, massive damage from high winds which took down thousands of pine trees which knocked out power and damaging or destroying homes, cars and businesses. Downtown and poor neighborhoods were particularly hard hit. It is estimated by city officials that some parts of the city will not have power for two to three more weeks.
Kinston is one of those towns that those in political and economic power tend to like to forget, in fact most have. Kinston was a large textile center in its heyday but many of the jobs that sustained the community were shipped overseas by the large clothing manufacturers. It used to be that most clothes that Americans wore were made in theUSA. Not anymore, in fact you will be hard pressed to find many American made clothes. Now the jobs manufacturing textiles that sustained much of rural Southern Americaare done in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Central America or China by workers that are working for pennies a day in unsafe and miserable conditions that are illegal in theUnited States and Western Europe. Corporate America rakes in the cash while Americans suffer and people in impoverished countries are exploited. Welcome to the joys of globalization.
I have become close to people in Kinston. They are wonderful people, but the town has seen better times. There is much poverty and crime is increasing mostly because the jobs that sustained the city are no longer there and the high tech aviation industry jobs that are beginning to come in are not attainable by many locals. It is a situation typical of much of the South where whole communities are being left behind in large part due to the actions of corporations based in this country that have cast them aside for a greater profit margin made off of people that they exploit overseas.
I was able to see a few of my friends last night. My friend Toni a cancer survivor and retiree living on a small retirement from her time as a nurse and Social Security was there. Her husband Jerry also a cancer survivor in remission from a cancer that has no cure was at home waiting for the electric company to restore electric power. They have been without power as has much of the town since Friday evening and they are on the priority for power restoration list because of medical conditions. It was eerie to see how much of the city was dark when I left the ballpark. Many of my other friends were absent including my friend and Negro League Hall of Fame member Carl Long. I will have to call him to see how he and his wife are doing.
The game was a no-hitter until the 5th inning when Kinston got their first hit and it wasn’t until the 7th inning that their opponents the Frederick Keys got their first hit. The score was tied one to one going into the 9th inning and the Indians one when pinch hitter Tyler Cannon hit a deep fly ball with the bases loaded. Since the Key’s had their infield and outfield drawn in to try to cut down the runner on third as he came home on a ground ball or short fly ball it went well over the Key’s center fielder. It was a wonderfully pitched game by the pitchers of both teams and was a no hitter on both sides until the bottom of the 5th inning whenKinston picked up their first hit.
I’ll be in Kinston tomorrow night on my way home toVirginia Beach. If the Indians make the playoffs I may see them again this year, if they don’t it will be my last time to see this venerable franchise play inKinston. I expect that Kinstonwill get a team to replace the Indians next year but nothing is certain and it is possible that they will not have a team. People in large cities and suburbia may not understand but for many small cities a minor league team is often key part of the community which is hard to do without. Sometimes they are the very heartbeat of the towns.
I pray that as we recover from Irene that we as a nation will start actually giving a damn about places likeKinstonand all the other communities that have been abandoned by the economic social Darwinists that populate corporate America and much of our political elite. The people of Kinston and all of these little tons and cities are our people, they are our neighbors, they are Americans that deserve better than to be abandoned by those that know no country and have no loyalty than to their bottom line.
However there is one thing to remember that nothing bad accrues from baseball, it may not be America’s passion that having been taken by the NFL but it is still the real heart of America or as Bill “Spaceman”Lee said the “Belly button of America.”
James Earl Jones character in the movie Field of Dreams Terrance Mann said something to Kevin Costner’s character Ray Kinsella that I think is appropriate and timeless and I will leave you with that quote:
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”