It’s early Spring, my face is sunburned and I have aches and pains from being seated on a bleacher for more than eight hours. But, it was time well spent as Debbie and I enjoyed watching the Iowa State Cyclones play the number #1 OU Sooners in softball in Ames, March 24 - 25.
The Sooners visit Ames every other year and Debbie and I have attended at least two games of the three game set each of the last four times the Sooners were in Iowa.
We arrived in Ames around 2 p.m. on Friday and headed straight for the stadium. There was no time to check into our hotel as we might not get a seat.
We were surprised to find that the two big gates in front of the stadium were shut. After witnessing a fan open one of the gates and go through, we decided to follow and head into the stadium, too.
The stadium quickly filled up within 30-minutes of our arrival. Most of the crowd was OU fans that came from all across Iowa and neighboring states. I talked with several fans and they thought nothing of driving several hours so their little girl or team could watch the back-to-back national champions play ball.
There was group of parents and their children, all from Western Iowa, who were seated in front of us. Many of the young girls, around age 8, had made signs proclaiming their love for the Oklahoma players and the team.
One sign read, “I play now for my team so someday I can play for OU.” Another sign read, “I am Jayda Coleman’s biggest fan.” Around the fifth inning, the young girl excitedly ran back to her parents and exclaimed, that Jayda, an outfielder for the Sooners, read her sign and waved at her.
All the girls carried softballs with Sharpie pins hoping to get autographs from the players and coaches after the game.
The Sooners struggled a bit on Friday, winning game one, 3-0, in seven innings. We heard later that evening that it was the second biggest crowd in stadium history.
After arriving at our hotel, Debbie looked out our room window to discover that the Sooners were staying in the hotel across the road.
On Saturday morning, after watching the Sooners prepare to the load the bus for game day, we decided it was time to head to the stadium. Even though we arrived two hours before the game set to start at 1 p.m., we found a long line waiting to get into the stadium. There were also several tailgaters sporting OU flags, grills, lawn chairs and yard games in the parking lot. I spoke with one of the tailgaters and they hailed from Iowa, but love the Sooners.
We quickly parked and got in line. By the time the gates opened 45-minutes later, the line had more than doubled and stretched all the way across the street from the stadium.
When the gates opened, Debbie took off carrying our OU blanket we use for a cushion to grab a seat. I couldn’t keep up with her as people in line behind me passed as I moved my legs as fast as they would carry me.
We could not believe the crowd as fans quickly filled the stadium to standing room only capacity, breaking Friday’s record and shattering the all-time stadium attendance record. There was an estimated 1,715 fans at Saturday’s games. That doesn’t count the fans outside the stadium. People were standing in the stadium aisles while others found a seat in the upper deck walkways or on top of the concrete dugouts and wherever they could.
After waiting about an hour, it was game time. It was a beautiful day for a couple softball games – warm and sunny with a nice breeze.
Iowa State went up early, 2-0, in game two before the Sooners got the bats cracking, scoring a grand slam and several single homeruns, winning the game, 13-3, in five-inning run-rule fashion.
And not to leave Iowa State out of the mix, the Cyclones Lea Nelson come in to pinch hit in the bottom of the fourth inning and hit her first collegiate home run off of Sooner pitcher, Nicole May. It’s a memory she will never forget. The Cyclones also made several double plays and big catches in the outfield while playing tough in all three games, in spite of being unable to score many points.
On the flip side, every time the Sooners scored a homerun, the team would look into the stands and yell, “Boomer,” at which the fans would yell back, “Sooner.” This was repeated two more times.
At the end of game one, I made my way to the concession stand only to wait more than 30-minutes in a long line to buy two hot dogs and a couple cold drinks, arriving back at my seat just in time for game two.
The second game of the double header Saturday was much of what happened in game one as the Sooners went up 8-0 in the top the first inning. OU sophomore pitcher, Jordy Bahl, a Nebraska native, kept the Cyclones scoreless with the Sooners winning, 10-0, in five-innings to take all three games to none.
We saw Chris Plank, the voice of Sooner softball at the games. We thought about asking him for a photo with us, but didn’t get the chance. When listening to OU games on the radio, Debbie often tweets our names and we sometimes hear Chris read on air - “Debbie and J.O. Parker are listening in from Montezuma, Iowa.”
Afterwards, we waited in the grassy area outside the stadium and watched as the players and coaches signed autographs and had pictures taken with the fans. It was there that we discovered that the large group seated behind us was the parents and family of OU’s Alex Storako of Frankfort, Ill. Alex played softball at Michigan for four years before transferring to Oklahoma for her super senior season. She crossed the barrier set up at the stadium to give her mom a hug and have photos taken with family and friends.
We topped off the day with a stop at Culvers in Newton before heading home to Montezuma. The best part of the trip was spending time with Debbie enjoying something we love together.
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.
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