On Monday the River City Rascals announced via press release that 2019 will be their last season of operation. The press release was straight to the point, focusing on the financial considerations that were about to bring about the Rascals demise. Those concerns are equally valid and a sign of the penny pinching that pro sports ownership groups are well known for. In the end though, no matter what the reasons may have been, legitimate or not, at the end of this season O’Fallon, Missouri and Rascals fans in the surrounding areas will be without the team they’ve cheered on since 1999 (and earlier if you want to count their time as the Zanesville Greys.
The Rascals aren’t the first team to fold, affiliated or unaffiliated, and they certainly won’t be the last. The Rascals aren’t a storied franchise either, having one only one Frontier League title in their existence and making the playoffs less than a handful of times. Still, they have their fans, and for those fans the Rascals matter. They bought gear, they supported the team, grew to like players, be upset at said players leaving, and fall in love with new players who came in their wake. Rascals fans were present when the team was winning and when they were losing. Ultimately the Rascals are folding not because of their fans, but because ownership doesn’t view them as profitable.
O’Fallon Mayor Bill Hennessy has already pledged that CarShield Field will be occupied by a new team come 2020. Be that as it may, they won’t be the Rascals. That team will be gone and their fans will be left with nothing but memories to show for their fandom. Memories are great, they are important, but they can’t replace the experience of going to the ballpark and making new memories. When the final out of the last Rascals game is made this year the Rascals will be no more and their fans will be left to ponder what to do when summer rolls around next year and the team they’ve spent 20 years rooting for isn’t around to be cheered on.
I can’t lay claim to understanding that feeling. I’ve never had a baseball team I was a fan of fold or relocate. The Chicago Cubs. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Brisbane Bandits, Hanwha Eagles, Lamigo Monkeys, and a few others have all been just as those names read throughout my periods as a member of their respective fan bases. I even have a local pro team to call a favorite now, the Milwaukee Milkmen of the American Association. I already own gear from the other teams, but with the Milkmen it’s different. I own gear, I own a season ticket package, and my girlfriend and I have already started creating memories at Routine Field. They feel like a part of my life, something to look forward to tomorrow, a week from now, and years into the future.
I can’t imagine waking up tomorrow and the Milkmen no longer being an event that we attend or a team that we root for. They haven’t even been around an entire year and I’ve already formed that type of connection with the team that sports a mascot named Bo Vine and centers every bit of their merchandise around milk. Baseball has that sort of draw with people, it centers us and brings the world together for us. It gives us something to look forward to, and even when the times aren’t good, such as the 2019 Milkmen season, the prospect of a better next year awaits. To have that removed from me would hurt, it would challenge the way I view the renewal cycle of baseball. Yet, I know that years from now the Milkmen could fold or leave and I could be left with nothing but my memories. Baseball is the best, it brings those who love it untold joy and a place to form bonds and connections that will last years. Baseball is also a cruel master that can rip your heart out and leave you feeling empty, just ask Rascals fans how they feel today.
Lead photo courtesy of Chris Lee – St. Louis Post-Dispatch