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Jerry Milani
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April 13 - A Piece of Home...in Rome

“I see great things in baseball. It's our game- the American game. It will take people out of doors, fill
them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism, tend to relieve us from being a nervous,
dyspeptic set, repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.” -- Walt Whitman

I thought tonight about Whitman's words as I sat through the late innings, watching Rome's
homestanding Braves fall, 6-2, to the Augusta GreenJackets (not the Macon Whoopies or the Chillicothe
Paints, but an appropriate moniker nonetheless) before friends and family and a few hundred Romans
at the State Mutual Stadium just north of the city's antebellum downtown.  

I speak of course of Rome, Georgia, where business -- in the form of the Team TIAA-CREF cycling
squad preparing for next week's
Tour de Georgia (think Tour de France, minus the Pyrennes) -- has
brought me.

As I neared the Northwest Georgia city, which lies just a few miles from the Alabama border, I happened
upon a smallish sign for “Georgia Loop 1 - East Rome By-Pass” and an even smaller one with “State
Mutual Stadium/Home of the Macon Braves” accompanied by the familiar tomahawk logo and arrow
pointing right.  Could the team be in town tonight?  The pocket schedule at the Best Western Rome's
front desk confirmed it, and my evening suddenly would have a purpose.

There was nothing innately remarkable about the game, (it was reasonably well played), the teams (if I
saw a Major Leaguer in the bunch he didn't stand out tonight), or the ballpark (nice, clean and modern
but resembling a hundred others).  All were, from Section 204, Row 10, Seat 5 (face value $6.00), like
many I have seen and many others that I have not.  Youngsters trying to find their way from the South
Atlantic League (“A Ball”) through the Braves and Giants organizations, respectively, all sharing the
dream of making it to the Bigs.

As I was taking in the sights and sounds, I thought, well, here I am, 750 miles (geographically, perhaps
a bit further culturally) from the Garden State, but while I'm in the ballpark, I could just as well be home.  
The young Braves lefty gamely trying to get through a tough sixth inning on guile when his fastball may
have abandoned him in the fifth could have easily been tossing for my (near-) hometown Newark Bears.  
The between-innings, toss-the-ball-through-the-hole-win-a-prize contest could have been sponsored by
Staten Island Advance rather than the Rome News-Tribune.  The Budweiser Beach Party deck could
overlook the Yogi Berra Museum & Hall of Fame in Montclair instead of the Braves' bullpen.

I saw baseball.  A neatly turned double play.  A tough, stocky catcher disdaining aid from the manager
and trainer after a beaning and returning to his spot behind the plate in the next half inning.  A run scored
on a bunt single, stolen base, error and wild pitch.  Stuff you see at every game, or maybe at some
games, or only at the occasional game.  But baseball.

After a long day of traveling, working and, thanks to the local Outback, overeating, I was easily primed to
retire to the Best Western, bang out a few emails on the free WiFi (yes, free WiFi in Rome) and watch the
Braves and Nats on TBS.  But what I really needed was to be taken out of doors, filled with oxygen and
relieved of the dyspepsia of the day.  

Thank you, State Mutual Stadium.  And bless you, Walt Whitman.