The oldest active professional baseball park sits on the west side of downtown Birmingham and Stanhope Elmore got to take a part in its history. The rain held off just long enough for the Mustangs to get in their doubleheader with Ramsay at Rickwood Field on Saturday.
Before the baseball began, Stanhope coach Wes Dunsieth said he wanted his players to understand the significance of getting to play on the field. The Mustangs got to tour the stadium, including the museum and a look at the old outfield fence behind the wall currently standing.
Rickwood Field has been hosting baseball games each year since its opening in 1910, mostly for the Birmingham Barons and the Birmingham Black Barons. Several hall of fame players, including Ty Cobb, Satchel Paige and Willie Mays, saw playing time in numerous games at the stadium.
Stanhope senior Nate Hodge, along with several other Mustang players, said it was easy to appreciate the history. He said getting to play on the same field as baseball legends is something that will stick with him for a long time.
Ramsay hosts several of its home games at Rickwood each season and Dunsieth said he has wanted to get Ramsay on the schedule for an opportunity to take his team into Birmingham. Dunsieth, who played at Rickwood in 2001, reached out to the Ramsay coach on Twitter and the game has been one Stanhope has had circled on the schedule ever since.
While getting to go to Rickwood was a big enough event on its own, the Mustangs still had two games to play. After falling behind 1-0 in the opener, Stanhope scored three runs in the third inning behind RBIs from Bradley Dobbs and Chase Eddings.
The Mustangs held their 3-1 lead into the seventh inning behind Cole Freeman’s longest pitching outing of the season. Freeman allowed just three hits while striking out five batters through the first six innings.
However, Ramsay chased Freeman in the bottom of the seventh after two singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out. Josh Wilson entered to close out the game but the Rams got two quick hits and walked off on a two-run double for a 4-3 victory.
The Mustangs appeared to rebound well from the first loss, taking a 1-0 lead on a Bailey Barfoot sacrifice fly in the first inning of game two. However, Stanhope struggled in the field, recording six errors on its way to a 6-3 defeat.
Stanhope had the tying run at the plate in the top of the seventh inning with one out but stranded two runners in scoring position to end the game. Connor Gregg led the team with three hits in the loss. Barfoot pitched all six innings on the mound for the Mustangs, allowing six hits and four earned runs.
Despite the two losses, Dunsieth hopes the trip to Rickwood will leave a lasting memory on the players — not to remember the results but remember the significance of the stadium and the humbling feeling of taking the same field so many other players have taken before.