RiverHawks or SprawlerHawks?

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Obviously, one of the attractions of baseball is that it’s played outside in the warmer seasons. To sit back on a warm day at the old ball park and watch a slow-paced game as lazy clouds float by is close to heaven in my scorebook.

Blackhawk Park, home to Marinelli Field and the Rockford RiverHawks, adds two more natural features to an outdoor baseball fan’s pleasure list.

First is the ever-moving, always alive Rock River. Though not visible from all seats, just knowing that old man is rolling by, waiting to whisk away a Ruth-like homer, adds a historic rush to the moment. The river attracts birds that fly over close, far away, and spaces in between. Nighthawks fly, especially in the early evening, which is a dominant time for RiverHawk games. Nighthawks are attracted to the abundance of insects, whose habitats are river and near river ecosystems.

Oops—do insects and people mix? Are we supposed to? I like the big swarms of insects around the ball park lights. The mayflies and whatever swarming in huge moving orbs soon leave the lights to buzz the fans harmlessly. Occurrences like this are rare for most people. Jeez, we’re so removed from nature. Sadly, for me and other budding entomologists, the majority of nights are insect swarm-free. This plays well for the majority that attend games; there’s no accounting for taste.

The last game I attended in June, a Cooper’s hawk flew a display flight that was meant to shore up the bond with its mate. The hawk flew over the stadium heading for the forested banks behind. The near-old growth dominates many areas of Blackhawk Park. What fool wouldn’t enjoy the aging bur oaks above, yet back of, the stadium, moving in a balmy breeze? What might the screech owls do as a foul ball rips through the crown of a big oak, bumping downward like a pinball from craggy branch to craggy branch, finally reaching a clump of Philadelphia sedge on the ground?

The RiverHawks are moving, though; they’re heading for the sprawl. They’re hoping the upscale sprawling subdivisions will increase attendance, and that peole will spend more at the ball park. The RiverHawks blame the location of Marinelli Field for some of their problems. Heck, who wants to drive to an old, beautiful park on a grand old river? Who wants to drive down to a neighborhood where real people live? Drive-bys, you say? I’ll give you drive-by: the drive-by of I-90. Thousands of motor vehicles will drive by during the course of a game. The stadium is close enough, you’ll hear I-90’s constant din.

Oh, there’ll be plenty of shine at the new stadium. There’ll be metal here and metal there and plenty of between-inning hijinks like “name that Realtor” and “pin the tail on the developer.” The brand new, giant scoreboard will air portions of “This Week In Sprawl Baseball.”

In all fairness, the new stadium will have a park area; hopefully, oaks and other native trees will be planted in it. So take it away, Harry!—Uh-one, uh-two—take me out to thethe sprawl park…

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associate’s degree in science and a bachelor’s in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.

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