Baseball sometimes gets pegged as “boring,” and while I’ve never felt that way, it’s easy to understand that line of thinking.
The games aren’t quick and there isn’t the constant action that draws some fans to sports like basketball and hockey.
However, no matter how you feel about “America’s pastime,” if you were at ISG Field Monday night, I can’t imagine you had any complaints.
The Northwoods League Home Run Challenge felt more like a scripted Hollywood drama than a baseball event.
As the Great Plains and Great Lakes each exchanged dingers for the better part of two hours, the anticipation just continued to grow.
Sure, the moonshots were entertaining, but it was clear the players looked at it as way more of a team competition than an individual one.
Even the players who weren’t in the challenge were totally engaged, cheering on their teammates and making sure that all homers were counted.
Mankato MoonDogs’ star Matt Higgins said no one wanted to hit last for the Great Plains and given the head-to-head team scoring format, it’s easy to see why.
It was likely going to be a pressure-filled situation that came with a quota to win or tie.
When each team got down to its final two hitters, it was clear what was going to happen, and everyone in the stadium knew it.
The Great Plains’ fate was going to be left to the guy many fans came to see — Higgins.
As he walked to the plate, the roar and ovation was something to behold.
Higgins said it gave him goosebumps, and I don’t think he was alone.
“When everybody started clapping and got on their feet, it gave me goosebumps walking to the plate,” Higgins said. “All I can do is just smile and enjoy the moment.”
“Higgy” needed eight to tie and nine to win and sure enough, he hit ten, sending ISG into a frenzy.
He started a bit slow, but picked up the pace in the middle with the roars growing louder with each homer.
After the contest, Higgins was still the star of the show.
He broke it down in the huddle for the Great Plains with his teammates shouting “Higgy,” and countless kids approached him for autographs.
The final tally was 69-67 Great Plains.
The following night, a record 2,854 fans packed ISG Field for the All-Star Game, capping a fun two-day experience that didn’t seem possible just a few short months ago.
Pre-pandemic, we took events like this for granted because if it was on the calendar, well, that meant it was going to happen.
The festivities this week were going to be a big deal no matter what, but after the event was postponed last year, it just seemed like the whole thing felt even sweeter.
Special moments like Higgins’ round in the challenge are what makes sports so tantalizing, and the Northwoods League All-Star Game gave southern Minnesota a chance to experience a unique event.
For the thousands of fans who missed out last year, I hope it was worth the wait.
It would’ve been hard to script a better experience.
Follow Kevin Dudley on Twitter @Dudley7Kevin.