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It's a picture-perfect Thursday night in Schuyler, Nebraska. The setting is a baseball field lovingly referred to as “Merchant Park.”

I get out of my car and head to the admission gate of the grandstands as I await my evening I like to call the “Merchant Park Experience.”

The field is manicured with a lush green appearance and mowed to just the right height for the players to show off their fielding skills.

The base paths are also well tended to, as is the pitcher’s mound and the home plate area - an absolutely impressive fact considering the rainstorm just two days earlier.

Some of the players are rifling warmup tosses to each other deep in the outfield while others are filling the night sky with the sounds of the crack of the bat during a few pitches of batting practice.

The contrast of the white outfield fence against the dark green turf leads me directly to the flag of the United States of America waving proudly beyond the center field fence displaying its beauty and magnificence for everyone in the park to see.

The enticing smell of freshly popped popcorn wafts through the stand as the concession stand is preparing for another night of serving up fresh delights to the baseball fans who come to watch the team in action. Tonight it is the Schuyler American Legion Senior baseball team with the good fortune of taking part in the “experience.”

As I ascend into the press box with the good fortune and the humbling opportunity of announcing the game and running the scoreboard, I get an even better view of the entire field. To say that it is breathtaking is like saying that the ocean is salty.

As I look around the grand old grandstand, I can’t help but ask myself, 'What if these bleachers could talk? What stories would they tell about all the games that have been played in this park over the many years of its existence?

"How many players who donned baseball cleats went on to play college ball or beyond? How many families came out on an amazing Thursday night such as this and enjoyed a game and a hot dog together?”

Soon, the umpires are on the field chatting with the coaches at home plate. The lineups are being read for both teams as the players proudly lineup along their appropriate base-paths as their names blare over the loudspeaker.

Then the words, “Ladies and gentlemen, will you please rise?” are announced proudly as the park grows silent and the familiar strains of the “Star Spangled Banner” begin to play.

With the call of “Batter up,” the game begins.

The sights and the sounds bring on feelings of peace, excitement, happiness, nostalgia, etc., just to name a few. These are the nights that make living in small city Nebraska so amazing.

Oh yes, Schuyler came from behind to win the game 5-2, but the real winners on this night were the people who shared in the “Merchant Park Experience.”

Doug Phillips is a freelance writer for the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at SCHsports@lee.net.

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