Edson: Pit Spitters Saved Our Baseball Season
Long-suffering baseball fans in northern Michigan got a bonus this summer – a championship baseball team.
The Traverse City Pit Spitters made sure of that Friday night when they rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning to pull out a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Eau Claire Express in the title game of the Northwoods League. The league is one of several around the country for college baseball players.
When Traverse City baserunner Adam Proctor crossed home plate on a bases loaded, two-out error, it set off a wild celebration among the more than 4,600 fans at Pit Spitters Park.
My friend Charlie Johnston and I were among the thousands of fans high-fiving and celebrating after the victory.
It was a fitting climax to a phenomenal first year performance by the Pit Spitters. They reeled off 56 wins during the season and set several league records in the process.
Their quality of play was surprising to me.
I knew they were good, young college players coming to Traverse City. But I was impressed with the way they played solid, fundamental baseball.
I was also impressed with the many special nights the Pit Spitters hosted during the season.
In short, the Pit Spitters made it fun to attend a baseball game. It saved me a 10-hour roundtrip to Detroit to see a team that is sorely lacking in fundamentals and talent.
In fact – as I’ve mentioned before – I have to laugh when I hear Tigers TV announcers make excuses for the team’s poor play. They say things like “these kids are young,” or “they haven’t played many games at this position.”
Yet, when I watch players in the Northwoods League and even in the Little League World Series right now, they handle the fundamentals better than many of the Detroit Tigers. Why is that?
Needless to say, having the worst record in baseball has led to a dismal summer for Tigers fans.
That’s why we needed the Pit Spitters.
They showed us how good, fundamental baseball is played.
And we also learned that the nickname so many northern Michigan fans didn’t care for at first – Pit Spitters – finally came to be accepted.
If you’ve followed minor league baseball over the years, they like to set themselves apart with unique nicknames. It’s all in the name of good marketing.
And when you combine winning with a unique nickname, merchandise really sells.
That was the case at Pit Spitters Park on Friday night. Many people either had Pit Spitters hats, shirts or sweatshirts on as they cheered their team to a championship.
It was a fitting ending to an exciting season and already has northern Michigan baseball fans looking forward to next season.
Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.