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It’s time District 4 moves on from playoff games at Bowman Field

This past Saturday was quite lovely. Minus a brief late-morning shower, it was mostly sunny and pleasant. One could do just about anything outside with these nearly optimal conditions.

Expect apparently play baseball at Bowman Field.

Other than that 20-25 minute show around 11 a.m. it did not rain after 2 p.m. Friday. Despite that fact and having lights at Bowman Field, the District 4 Class AA and AAAA championships were postponed. Montoursville and Danville now play for the 4A crown Monday at 7 p.m; and South Williamsport and Muncy for the 2A title Tuesday at 3.

Barring some massive early-morning dew, those games should be played at Bowman Field. But this is Bowman Field so who knows?

The bottom line is this: Following Tuesday evening’s Class AAA final, District 4 should never play another playoff game at Bowman Field again. It has not been worth the hassle since the city sold its soul to Big Brother, AKA Major League Baseball.

What happened Saturday was the latest debacle among a mountain’s worth. As far as Williamsport and high school baseball is concerned, this was the biggest embarrassment since it moronically lost the state championships in 2003 when it postponed the finals. That came about when it postponed the finals a day before a sunny Friday of games would have taken place because of afternoon rain that Thursday, leaving teams which already had checked into Williamsport hotels in a bind.

Listen, Bowman Field is a great venue. I respect all those who work there because they do great work. Still, MLB has helped do everything possible to destroy what used to be so fantastic about having the championships there.

There is no doubt in my mind that just about any other field in the state, under the same situation which happened here Friday-Saturday, would have hosted those games. That goes double when that field has lights and could have pushed the games scheduled back from 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to seemingly any time. Heck, play at least one game.

Here’s the deal. Either Bowman Field has some of the worst drainage known to man and could not be played on; or someone is going to simply use any excuse out there to make it look like that and prevent the games from being played there. Either way, both are reasons why playoff games should no longer be held at Bowman.

When the district administrators and coaches have no say over their playoffs, something is broken.

There was a time when Bowman was so accommodating that not only were district championships and state playoff games held there, but Williamsport, Loyalsock and St. John Neumann played nearly all their home games there as well.

Everything changed when MLB took over. The city got some nice field renovations but everyone else got hosed, specifically the high school baseball players. Since MLB came on board, seemingly any time a rain drop falls games are doomed.

Playoffs have been a mess there each season under MLB’s stewardship since 2019. And as much as it might play dumb here, MLB is making the rules. But we’ll get to that later.

For now, in 2019 Montoursville and Central Columbia had to move their game to the Friday before states started, meaning their aces could not throw in the opening round. It happened last year to Sayre and Southern Columbia, too.

And then Saturday came.

South already was on the bus heading to Bowman Field with everything seemingly moving forward as scheduled when it received word the games would be moved to 1 and 4. Fine. But then by 11:45 a.m. it goes from that to postponing games? At 11:45? On a field with lights? That’s a gigantic leap from just a little earlier saying the games would be moved back two hours. It just doesn’t make sense.

It’s the latest black eye for high school baseball at Bowman Field since MLB took over. And you know who could fix this mess but does not? MLB. You know the multi-billion dollar corporation that has in its contract that nobody other than the Crosscutters during their season can use the tarp. You know the tarp which would have let games scheduled Friday and Saturday go off with no issues.

It’s true. Stop laughing. I’m actually serious.

This organization worth 3.66 billion dollars will not let high school teams use the tarp. Could it conceivably be damaged if it was used before the worn-out MLB Classic in late August? Maybe, although people using it aren’t stupid. Accidents happen, but worst-case scenario it tears. You’re telling me this multi-billion-dollar organization cannot replace it? That’s pathetic, MLB.

Then even when MLB actually lets teams use the field it comes with mindless strings attached which drain the fun of “playing” there. South Williamsport and Sayre could not take infield prior to the 2019 Class AA championship. Neither could this year’s Backyard Brawl participants. They could not step on the dirt at all prior to the game starting.

Hey, at least teammates can have a fun game of catch without any issues, right? Wrong. They cannot even toss the ball two feet from each other unless they are 10 feet past the foul line. But at least afterward pictures can be taken on the field. Wrong. Ask the 2019 Montoursville district championship team about that mess.

And why? For one game. ONE GAME!…IN LATE AUGUST! It’s absolutely ridiculous and MLB should be ashamed of itself no matter how much it does and/or will do to try and spin things.

Before the pandemic PNC Field, home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees hosted the six District 2 baseball championships. They did this DURING their season. In 2019, the Yankees played a Memorial Game afternoon contest and Williamsport played Hazleton for the championship immediately after.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Heinz Field host the six WPIAL football championships each November…DURING THE SEASON. And this is football on grass. Did PNC Field, Minor League Baseball, the Steelers or Heinz Field make it hard playing there? No, and it was/is a great experience for the athletes.

But MLB, which plays one game a year at Bowman Field, throws up obstacle after obstacle when it comes to using it. I guess I should not be surprised. Commissioner Rob Manfred has proven to possibly be the most inept league boss in sports history, words I never thought I would type while Roger Goodell is still around. Their sport is suffering and losing fans in droves and it’s idiotic decision making like we see them use at Bowman Field which is a huge reason why.

And watch, I guarantee you MLB tries to point the finger at someone other than itself if it bothers to read this column. It’s never it’s fault, just ask it. But the facts don’t lie and MLB has taken all the joy out of playing high school games at Bowman Field.

The 2017 district championships were held at State College’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. In 2018 they were at Central Columbia when Bowman Field was under renovations both years. And you know what? It was great. There were none of these idiotic hassles.

Hopefully the new Williamsport turf complex which allegedly may be done next year will fix this. If it’s not, another venue must be chosen because things have run their course here.

It’s time for District 4 to do to playoff baseball at Bowman Field what so many now do to Major League Baseball:

Ignore it.

–Masse may be reached at cmasse@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse

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