Two dozen ecstatic, whooping baseball players piled out onto LewisGale Field Tuesday night, celebrating the Salem Red Sox winning the Carolina League Championship and the Mills Cup Trophy.
It had been 12 years to the day that the team won the pennant. This time they get to celebrate.
When the then-Salem Avalanche which preceded the Sox won on Sept. 10, 2001, they had only a few hours to be happy. Just before 9 a.m. the next day, terrorist-controlled airliners slammed into the World Trade Towers in New York City, killing 2,750 people from 90 countries. Two other loaded planes hit the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. Our nation will never be the same again, and the Salem Baseball team didn’t get more than one set of headlines.
This time, the team, the big Boston Red Sox owners, and more than 4,000 fans were happy all over the place Tuesday night and into the next day. The Red Sox had won over the favored Potomac Nationals, 6-4.
A gaggle of Hispanic players did a jumping, waving and singing dance in Spanish. I couldn’t translate what they were saying, but anybody could tell they were excited.
Once Carolina League President John Hopkins presented the 2-foot Mills cup trophy to the team, the guys passed it overhead from player to player. There was no champagne nor sparkling cider spewed on the field. Maybe they did that afterwards in the locker room.
When the 10-foot Carolina League Champions pennant was unrolled, players jumbled together for pictures with it. A bat boy wrapped himself in it like a cape for another staff member to take a cell phone image.
In the stands, loyal fans Susan Schlossberg and the groupies who sit on the third base side over the dugout took their turn holding the pennant, with someone on the field taking their photo.
A couple of lucky fans had caught caps players threw into the stands after the win. I’m sure there were more souvenirs, too, in addition to signed balls and the baseball card usher Tom Bird was showing off, presented to him and signed by Mookie Betts. Betts’ parents were in the stands to see their son’s championship hits and runs.
This time, nobody seemed unhappy except the Potomac Nationals who slipped off the field and disappeared into the night.