Last May, the Alpine Cowboys were forced to cancel their 2020 season due to COVID-19. But now, the Cowboys are taking Kokernot Field again and fans are packing the stadium, eager for the return of baseball and a sense of normalcy.
By Bárbara Anguiano
It’s opening day for the Alpine Cowboys, the first time they’re taking the field in more than a year. It’s raining hard, but after a year of no baseball in Alpine, it doesn’t matter.
“This is not normal weather for West Texas period,” said Alpine resident Bryan Ritchie, who’s trying to keep dry under the ballpark’s awning. “We’re in a drought, we’re going to take the rain if we can get it.
Ritchie said he averages about 10 games a year, and he’s willing to wait out the storm today, so this can be his first game of 2021.
“This will pass over here pretty quick. We’ll play baseball.”
Most baseball leagues have strict rules when it comes to rain and rain delays. Major League Baseball takes the threat of lightning extremely seriously. But at Kokernot Field, it’s different today, especially for this long-awaited game.
“We’re not complaining, we haven’t had rain in two years, so if the Cowboys can bring rain to the Big Bend area, let them bring it,” said Kristin Cavness, the general manager for the Alpine Cowboys.
Cavness is busy making calls reassuring fans the game will absolutely go on as planned. She said the packed house of Cowboy fans is an indication of how badly people want a return to normalcy—storm clouds aside.
“We didn’t have it last year, we were in a severe drought, COVID happened, it was a terrible year,” Cavness recalls. “I think everyone wants some baseball.”
That much is clear on opening day in Alpine. Fans have no problem waiting for the rain to clear. In the meantime, they’re getting snacks; beer, nachos, the smell of their popcorn bags and brisket burritos wafts through the air, overpowering the scent of rain.
After about an hour-and-a-half of downpour and drizzle, it’s finally here, the moment fans had been waiting for.
The game announcer begins to read the starting lineup. By this time, the field has been covered and uncovered by the home team.
The players are taking the field for the first time in over a year. People are starting to beeline back to their seats.
Bryan Ritchie said the promise of nine innings of Pecos League baseball is worth the wait because it’ll make him feel human.
“It’s not just the team, it’s the park, it’s the community that comes out to watch these guys play,” Richie said, as he looks out over Kokernot field. “It’s all of it. It’s a small town, so it’s something else for us to go do. We all love baseball, it’s America’s pastime.”
To any non-baseball person, the thought of a nearly 2-hour rain delay might seem like a lot.
But in an isolating time, in an isolated area, some sounds—the popcorn machine’s rhythmic beat, fans shuffling to their seats, the crack of a bat—are just worth the wait.