‘Round the clock baseball at the NBC World Series is a grueling proposition. Fans come to watch 72 straight hours of games with little sleep, while players, coaches, and umpires prepare for 1:00 a.m. scheduled start times for a game that requires extreme mental sharpness with every pitch. It is a wildly unique challenge to play, and watch baseball, sometimes until the sun comes up.
But there is one factor that makes it somewhat easier and well worth it for everyone at the ballpark, a love of the game.
Fans geared up for round the clock baseball range in all ages and experience levels. They are adults continuing the tradition from their childhoods, and kids starting traditions of their own.
“I’ve done it for years,” said David Storm. “I started doing it with my grandfather when I was eight. The only years I missed is when I was in the military. You can get all the baseball you want in one weekend and you’re done. I’ve seen (Mark) McGuire, I’ve seen…Johnny Damon. My wife knows that this weekend I’m gone.”
Xavier Sisco is a four-year vet of ‘round the clock baseball at the age of 12. He and his five siblings make the trip with their grandmother every year.
“Just watch the game,” said Sisco. “You’ll probably stay awake a lot longer than you think. This is absolutely one of the funnest things I do in my summer.”
Registered participants in the challenge are given a punch card. At the sound of a cuckoo clock, you must make your way to the instructed area to get the card punched in order to win prizes, including the opportunity to have the challenge named after you, and 20 skybox tickets to next year’s NBC World Series.
It is easier said than done. But the fans aren’t the only ones presented with a challenge. The game of baseball itself is dependent upon a player’s ability to give all their focus to all possible situations with every pitch. That focus is put to the test in high pressure games that start in the early morning hours.
For some of the college-aged players, the absurd hour is not foreign. They are usually up anyways, may as well play a game.
“It is a very unique experience and we enjoy it,” said Nick Goza of the Hays Larks. “We are just out having fun. It’s baseball. It’s a privilege to play here.”
“I think if it was a regular game it might be different,” said Tyler Detmer of the Larks. “But since it is the NBC World Series, you are always focused in, locked in, you know, you want to help your team out the best you can. Most of the time you are tired at this time of day. You get tired at 10 p.m. usually, but the adrenaline really keeps you going throughout the whole, you know, 12:45 all the way to 2:40 it looks like. So we’re still going strong.”
For coaches, sometimes the challenge is just keeping up with the energy level of the players. Baseball people are people of habit, from pre-pitch rituals to superstitions that border on psychotic. Getting out of that routine can make ballplayers and coaches a little crazy. So when a first pitch is thrown out at nearly 1 a.m., things can start to get interesting. But the break in normal can make things fun as well.
“We are used to a 7:00 start every night at home, we are on the road all summer, and when it comes to 1:00 it’s not that big of a deal to the kids,” said Hays assistant coach Dusty Washburn. “But for those of us that have wives and children at home it is something different. I’m usually in bed for four hours right now. But it’s worth it. This is what we bring the guys to Hays for, and get them to Wichita and find a way to win a few ball games.”
If there is anyone on the diamond that needs to fight of mental fatigue more than the players and coaches in a high pressure tournament it is the umpires. But like everyone else at the ballpark, just being there is fun enough to keep them going.
“Early in the morning or late at night, whatever your perspective is, it’s a lot of fun actually,” said home plate umpire Mark Goldfedder. “This is my 14th year and you get used to the routine that comes up. There is a lot of history, lot of tradition with the tournament so the fact that I’m even here makes it that much more worthwhile. The energy, the excitement, the abilities, what these players are able to do, they make it a lot of fun. It is hard work to be here but it’s still a lot of fun and really the energy just keeps me going.”
As the clock keeps turning, the hours do start to take their toll. But it is an experience fans look forward to.
“I would say come back tomorrow night and you’ll see a whole different me,” said Norman Wadby. “You would probably think I’m intoxicated, wasted, but I won’t be. It’ll just be me trying to keep going.”