The Albuquerque Isotopes, the Savannah Sand Gnats, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp,
the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the Vermont Lake Monsters, the Quad City River Bandits,
the Chicago Dogs, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, and the Amarillo Sod Poodles,
and countless other minor league teams across America
closed their gates and emptied their aluminum bleachers
during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The crack of the bat, the slap of the mitt,
the roar of the crowd, the first bite of the condiment-laden hot dog,
that initial sip of cold beer, and the silly shenanigans of the furry mascots
were all silenced across small-town America one summer.

Not every prospect pans out in the minor leagues.
But not every year?
That’s something new, strange and uncharted.
The absence of America’s pastime rung from Tacoma to Norfolk,
resonated from Louisville, Kentucky to Austin, Texas,
saddened small towns and beleaguered big cities alike.

The coronavirus took its toll, quieting storied ballparks both big and small,
squelching dreams, shuttering team stores, furloughing vendors,
and stripping average Americans of their most traditional escape
at a time where it was more likely to catch a deadly virus than a ball.