Smile Politely

A trip to the east … with a wooden bat and a beer

Okay, a huge chunk has been taken out of summer so far. It’s hard to realize this each time I leave the house and pray for the sweet, sweet kiss of an 80-degree day, but it really is going to be over before you know it. Oh, it will still be hot as balls, but the students will be back and our town’s little respite will come to a close. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Let’s get it on.


Last Friday a group of us headed over to Danville, Illinois. I know what you’re thinking and to answer your question, yes, it was on purpose. Normally, this would be the time I’d make a joke like, “Danville, I spent a week there one night,” but I’m going to refrain this time because it was actually a fun little trip. We went to see the local team, the Danville Dans, play a little baseball.

The Danville Dans are a team composed of college baseball players who come to town to play in the summer. They are some pretty good players, maybe not all of them, but let’s just say that many are very good. In fact, I was sort of stunned when I saw a list of the Dans: alumni who were in the major leagues. The biggest name is probably Jonathan Papelbon, the closer for the Phillies, but there’s also Mitch Moreland of the Rangers, Matt Tolbert of the Cubs, Eric Stults of the White Sox, and a few other guys.

So, having a chance to possibly see that kind of talent so close to home is sort of cool, but honestly, that’s really not what makes that 30 minute drive to Danville totally worth it. Hell, they play with wooden bats, which sound awesome when someone really smacks the dogshit out of a ball, but that’s not even what makes the drive worth it. The star player of the whole deal is pretty much Danville Stadium.

If I were more of a fuckhole, I would write something along the lines of “it’s like going back in time.” Since I’m less of one of a fuckhole, I will instead say that it’s fun and old timey. The stadium was built in 1945, but honestly, it seems older than that. One June in 1947, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, and Pee Wee Reese came to Danville Stadium with their minor league team to play against the Danville affiliate. Yes, that is the sound of me crapping my pants. I mean, that is really pretty sweet.

If you’re less into the actual baseball history, you can at least be impressed that they even shot parts of two movies there, A League of Their Own and The Babe. In fact, if you turn your head slightly into a breeze even now, you can still smell the faint whiff of stink that was soon to become Madonna’s acting career.

So, anyway, it’s a cool place with some history, but it’s probably a swell experience without any of that. We arrived a little late to the 6:30 game and missed an inning or so. We also missed a little bit of the second inning because they have beer there and we definitely wanted some of that before we sat down. They had Bud Light, with or without the added lime, Genuine Draft, and strangely, Spaten. They also had some wine, but even that didn’t seem as strange as the Spaten. The beers were $3 a piece for a 16 ouncer, but I tried not to totally go apeshit on them since I had to drive back home.

They also had some pretty decent ballpark fare, like a hot dog named The Junkyard Dog. I planned to try the Italian beef sandwich in the fifth inning, but apparently that one goes pretty fast and was already gone. I made up for this trauma by having another beer instead … along with some nachos. These are all sold at a place called the Varsity Room.

Just so you know, it’s not really a room. So, we got into the game, got fed and beered, and basically spent about $20 a piece, not too bad for a Friday night.

Once you get inside, you can sit pretty much wherever you like. There were people there, but it never once seemed crowded. It was a lot of families and there’s even a big bouncy house for the children to play on if they like. Most of the kids I saw just played catch along the fence. Either way, the seats are all wooden and not especially comfortable, and really, that seemed like exactly the way they should be.

I can’t imagine there’s a bad seat anywhere. We sat a little past first base and the view was great. I was very aware that there wasn’t any sort of netting to protect us, but even that made it sort of fun. If nothing else it really cut down on the grabass because I felt compelled to pay attention and not get popped in the face with a foul ball. This worked, but only because a ball never came our way.

The Dans lost this game to the Springfield Sliders, 7–6, but even that didn’t put any sort of damper on the trip. The players seem really young, probably because they are, but there were a few of them that were impressive. The pitching was pretty good at times and the defense was passable and none of it really mattered. It was just a treat to sit in an old ballpark and watch some baseball and sip a beer.

It’s tough for a guy like me not to make fun of a lot of things there, like the Carmack Car Capital Homer Hole or the Corn Hole Tournaments on Tuesday nights, I mean, that does seem like a lot of holes. Still, I really don’t want to. It was just too much of a good a time. Hopefully we’ll have some minor league baseball in Champaign some day, but even then a trip to Danville will probably always be in my summer plans from now on.

Note: The season is almost over, but there are still a few games left, so check out if you get a hankering for some baseball.


  • I don’t want to get into a debate on immigration, illegal or otherwise, but for fuck sake, can we please send Russell Brand back to England already?

Buona Sera, senorina, kiss me goodnight.

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