UNCG shortstop Cesar Trejo wasn’t happy about his performance on June 17.
He’d disappointed earlier in the game, there’s no doubt about it — two Ks and a flyout. So with two men on and the score at 4-3, Trejo had to redeem himself.
“In this game, you deal with a lot of adversity,” Trejo said after the game. “But I do a lot of training with the mental game. So before my last at-bat, I sat down and got my mind together. I flushed what had happened. I knew I’d have to bunker down and come up big.”
Sure enough, Trejo loaded the bases with a Texas leaguer. After a wild pitch from right-hander Bradley Hallman saw rightfielder Teddy Hoffman jog across home, Trejo’s single had set up leftfielder Derek Scheible to put up a sacrifice fly to put the home team up 5-4 for the win.
But Hoffman and Scheible both play for Texas State University; Hallman plays for Gardner-Webb University. With the exception of the College World Series, the NCAA season finished weeks ago.
Topping things off, I wasn’t in Greensboro or Boiling Springs, let alone Texas.
So what was going on?
I’ve lived in the Triad basically my whole life, but I’d never heard of the High Point-Thomasville HiToms before I started working at TCB. The team plays at their beloved diamond, Historic Finch Field, which has stood on Ballpark Road in Thomasville since 1935.
Yes, Thomasville. In Davidson County.
While I was intrigued by the prospect of this team upon first hearing about them last year, I was wary to cover them. This is not necessarily because I didn’t want to cover what might have turned out to be some bush-league team. Hell, I’ll cover your kids’ neighborhood hide-and-seek tournament if it’s in Greensboro, High Point or Winston-Salem.
And that’s the stipulation upon which TCB’s coverage is based: We cover events in the three major Triad cities. And Thomasville is not technically one of them.
My editors practically twisted my arm to get me to cover a HiToms game. They argued it’s ostensibly a High Point team and, since its affiliated Coastal Plain League serves as a collegiate summer conference, players from Triad universities would round out the roster.
Sure enough, the HiToms field two Triad starters: High Point University outfielder/pitcher Carson Jackson (at first base) and the aforementioned Trejo. So at least the team wasn’t going to be a bunch of jaded, 30-something drunks flipping bats, which would be a spectacle in and of itself.
Bolstered by two qualifiers, I convinced myself all would be well with our coverage’s integrity.
Ultimately, I’m glad I did.
I hit Interstate 85 Business south, drove about 10 miles, tip-toed through the northwest corner of Randolph County, crossed into Davidson, and Finch Field is right there, right off the first exit over the line.
Finch Field is small — every bit of it. The grandstand is more like a modestand. The parking is minimal, the lot composed of two miniscule gravel rectangles; a little house sits across the way from the right-field berm. The field dimensions also come up a bit short against many ballparks.
But the close quarters add to the charm.
Popup fouls flying up and over spectators’ heads would thunk satisfyingly on the hoods and roofs of cars parked around back. Others would fly into the hickory tree inside the corner of the next-door neighbors’ fence, where their brown dachshund would await its bounty as the balls shivered down the tree branches, wagging its tail with the hungry excitement of a lion waiting for a martyr to slip into its pit.
The play wasn’t half-bad. Think about it: The team’s basically a college all-star team. Maybe most worthy of mention, HiToms catcher Zac Almond of Catawba College bats in runs and slams homers as efficiently as most minor-leaguers could hope.
You could hear all the banter from the dugouts — jeers, cheers, curses and taunts.
Example: At the top of the third, Asheboro Copperheads first baseman Connor Lind clipped a foul ball into his own shin, hobbling off the pain as the ball scurried into the HiToms dugout. Pitcher Austin Reich grabbed the foul, lobbed it to the umpire, pumped his fist and drawled, “Strahk two.”
I even got to help a player out.
Between innings, Jackson left his cap atop the dugout roof, but wind kicked it just out of reach. I was taking photos at the chain-link fence along the first-base line adjacent to the dugout; seeing his predicament, I hopped the fence, scrambled atop the roof and handed him the cap. He thanked me kindly.
Everything about Finch Field oozes closeness and friendly familiarity.
“Even though we’re from all across the country,” Trejo said, “you’d think we’d been playing together since high school. It’s like family over here.”
As I waited at the box office, a bald man drove a Ford Focus up to the line.
“Anybody got a family of four?” he asked.
Of course there was one.
“Enjoy my tickets tonight,” the man said, handing the father his tickets. “Front row, right behind home plate. God bless.”
And he drove away.
Small-town baseball at its finest.