Baseball plain and simple

Feb. 13, 2014 @ 06:24 AM

Vince Lombardi once famously said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” While this attitude has no place in Little League or high school baseball, the Forest City Owls need to adopt this sentiment as their mantra for the 2014 season.

Sadly, new GM Cory Dirksen seems bent on continuing a disturbing trend of putting “entertainment” before wins and it needs to stop.

The shift in focus has taken its toll on the franchise. From a 51-9 record in 2009, to a mere 17 wins last season, oh how the mighty (and attendance) has fallen. Admittedly, there are many factors behind this downfall, but the main one has been trying to find the best promotions instead of the best players.

Dirksen’s solution is to create a carnival atmosphere at the ballpark. NO, NO, NO, 1,000 TIMES NO! That’s the problem, not the solution. The song says, “Take me out to the ballgame”, not  “Take me out to the carnival.”

Carnivals may have worked in the other markets Dirksen has been a part of, but mixing a county fair or carnival and baseball won’t work in Forest City. Fans in Rutherford County are baseball purists. They come to the games to here the crack of the bat and the pop of the mitt. They love the smell of fresh cut grass and hearing John Fogerty’s classic, “Put Me in Coach” over the loudspeakers. They want to see top level talent and winning baseball at McNair Field again, not some sideshow. And last time I checked, it’s the players on the field, not promotions, that win ballgames.

But Dirksen doesn’t seem to see it that way. “What we’re looking for in players is not where they’re from, it’s what their attitude is and their drive,” Dirksen said in a recent interview with The Daily Courier. I gather that he doesn’t want the best players from North Carolina, USC, Clemson, or other big name schools that local fans identify with.

Attitude and drive can only get you so far. For example, let’s say the Owls sign a gritty, blue-collar player from Tusculum, a solid D-II program. I don’t care how much drive or good attitude the player has, drive does not generate the bat speed to catch up with a top level D-I fastball from Clemson’s ace. If you want to win, you have to match fire with fire.

That begs the question, does Dirksen want to win?

“If we don’t win a championship but we have 1,500 people here that are enjoying themselves and having a good night every time and really feel like we put a good family-oriented entertainment product out there, there isn’t much more I could ask for,” Dirksen said.

Yes there is, Mr. Dirksen, and it’s called the Petitt Cup. Forest City is not the Chicago Cubs. We don’t want a group of lovable losers. We are the Yankees. We want our baseball as plain as pinstripes. We want championships. We want the Owls of 2014 to be like the Owls of old.  That’s not going to happen if winning isn’t the main focus, far above all other considerations. So I beg of you, don’t clown around with our team by turning them into a circus. Circuses eventually leave town. I want the Owls to stay forever.