Game unites community
May 11, 2010
They came from all parts of Middle Tennessee. Some were Vanderbilt fans, some were not, but when they entered the gates of Hawkins Field on Tuesday night, they were all a part of one team.
It has been a little more than a week since flood waters devastated homes and businesses in Middle Tennessee, taking the livelihood and even the lives of many Tennesseans.
Fans arrived at Hawkins Field with their own experiences from a time they will never forget, but would just as well never known. Some had been spared from the flooding, some had minor damage and others had lost everything. Even those fortunate enough to be spared from losing something tangible, likely knew of someone in Middle Tennessee who was affected.
Nashville has banded together during this difficult time in ways unseen in other parts of the country. People helping strangers clean out flooded homes, people washing clothes for those who lost appliances, people cooking meals and delivering food to those in need, and people providing a place to stay for those who had their homes destroyed. The list goes on and on and on ...
On Tuesday, the fans in attendance at Vanderbilt's game against Louisville once again illustrated the strength of Nashville by showing up in a big way to support flood relief efforts in Tennessee.
As fans arrived at the gates, they were greeted by Vanderbilt coaches and administrators, who collected donations for the Red Cross. Even former men's basketball player Shan Foster helped with collecting relief funds at the gate. Vanderbilt also had collection bins set up for people who donated food, clothing and other household goods.
Admission to the game was free, a kind gesture to the locals still reeling from last week. Vanderbilt also collected money for the Red Cross through auctioning off souvenirs, which, among other things, included a Chicago Bears helmet signed by Jay Cutler, Earl Bennett and Chris Williams and a baseball glove signed by David Price.
In total, Vanderbilt collected more than $20,000 in donations for the Red Cross as well as a countless amount of food and household goods.
Early forecasts called for rain on Tuesday, but as the day rolled on, rain moved further and further out of the picture. Instead of rain, crowds were treated to temperatures in the 70s and a back-and-forth thriller between a pair of top 25 teams.
The coat of mud left on streets where flood waters had crossed and the pieces of people's lives sitting in the front of their homes are cruel reminders of what was and what will be a difficult struggle for many, but Tuesday was a way for those hurting most to escape the pain and suffering.
"It has been a difficult week for a lot of people in Nashville," said Jack Tamber, who was attending his first Vanderbilt game. "Coming to this game tonight is a good escape and is a way to give back to those that are struggling."
The Commodores baseball team also did their part to add even more to the evening. The team donned patriotic red, white and blue uniforms; reminiscent of what Team USA wears. The bases were painted red (third base), white (first base) and blue (second base) and there were red, white and blue stars painted on the outfield apron.
"This is a good way to pull the community together," said longtime Vanderbilt fan Ivan Weinstein, who jumped at the opportunity to take in the game as well as helping others. "I'm glad Vanderbilt was able to do this for the community."
The damage will take years to repair, but on Tuesday night as the smell of hotdogs and the sound of the baseball popped in the catcher's mitt, everything seemed right at Hawkins Field. Thoughts of what was lost and what needs to be done next, were put on hold ... even if it was just a few hours.
It is times like this that takes me back to a fitting movie quote by James Earl Jones' character in Field of Dreams.
"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball," begins Jones. "America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh ... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."
People came on Tuesday night. One by one they filled into the stadium, and one by one they came together through America's Pastime to help those in need, showing once again how individual efforts can make a large difference in the community.
Photo by Steve Green