The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 5, 2013

Mike Pound: Joe Becker gets fans close to action

By Mike Pound

— Harry Greninger walked up to me and started laughing.

“You’re working hard,” he said.

“Some days I can hardly keep up with everything,” I said back to Harry, who laughed again.

See, Harry was thinking I wasn’t working hard because I was sitting in the second row behind home plate at Joe Becker Stadium watching the Missouri Southern Lions baseball team play the Fort Hays Tigers on a sunny, warm spring afternoon.

Hey, I didn’t just magically appear at Joe Becker, I did have to drive to the ballpark.

I think that’s something.

And before I drove to Joe Becker, I attended a musical brown bag lunch at Grace Episcopal Church in Carthage for a column that I plan to write in a few weeks.

It wasn’t all rest and relaxation.

OK, the truth is I really wasn’t working that hard Monday. I decided to go to Joe Becker when I found out that the game — originally scheduled to be played in Fort Hays — had to be moved to Joplin because of the recent heavy snows in western Kansas. The fact that the weather in Joplin was near perfect made my decision even easier.

I don’t get out to Joe Becker as often as I would like, so when I get a chance like I did Monday, I jump at it. Besides, I wanted to check on the work that the city’s parks and recreation department has done to upgrade the press box and concession area at Joe Becker.

Between the first and second innings, Chris Cotton, the parks and recreation director, took me to the press box. There still is a little bit of touch-up work that needs to be done, but the remodeled and expanded press box looks great.

I checked out the concession area on my own. The way I did that was to ask the nice lady at the window for a cheeseburger and a bottle of water. I was pretty sure the cheeseburger would be good because I could see a guy flipping a bunch of them on the grill. It’s always a good sign when you can watch your burger being grilled.

When I got my burger, I put some mustard on it, found my seat behind home plate and took a bite. It was very good. Maybe not “Mutt Burger” good, but so good that I decided to have a second one. Who knows? Maybe what made the Mutt Burger — served up for so many years by the late Mutt Miller — so good was the idea of the Mutt Burger. In any event, as good as Mutt Burgers were, I can say the burgers I had Monday were also pretty good.

Did I mention that I had two of them?

The great thing about watching baseball at Joe Becker is you get to sit pretty much right on top of the action. Because of that you can usually notice something neat that you might have missed at a bigger ballpark.

For example, in the first inning of the first game, Lions outfielder Dane Kolkmeyer came up to bat with runners on second and third and only one out. In a situation like that, the batter’s sole responsibility is to drive that runner from third to home either by a hit, a long fly ball or even a well-placed ground-ball out. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, you just need to get that runner home.

Dane struck out that time.

A couple of innings later, Dane was at the plate again. I was anxious to see if he had learned anything from his first at-bat. A few pitches later, I got my answer when Dane slammed the ball over the left field fence for a home run.

That’s why I like to watch baseball at Joe Becker.