By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
Kellet May of Vestavia Hills wasn’t going to let a change of venue change her attire for last week’s Birmingham Barons baseball game.
The Vestavia Hills resident was seated behind home plate at Regions Field with her mother and two daughters. All were dressed in vintage attire, just as they would have for the Rickwood Classic.
“The only Rickwood Classic that I’ve missed since I’ve been in Birmingham was when I was expecting (7-year-old daughter Lillian), and she was born two weeks later,” May said. “We are always dressed and ready and very excited about it.”
The annual Rickwood Classic was canceled in lieu of a Turn Back the Clock game on Wednesday, May 31, at Regions Field. The Barons previously announced that the game against Chattanooga would be moved to Regions Field because of structural repairs needed at Rickwood Field.
The Barons and the Lookouts wore vintage jerseys. The Barons celebrated the “Fabulous Fifties,” when the team was affiliated with the New York Yankees. The jerseys were gray with Birmingham across the chest in Yankee blue, the iconic Yankee logo on the sleeves and Yankee blue numbers on the back.
“We certainly were hoping to go there again like we do every year,” Barons owner Stan Logan said of Rickwood. “It’s a place we all love and respect, and we can’t wait to get back there. Every indication we have is we’ll be back there next year. Hopefully this will give everybody a little bit of a wakeup call that it needs some love, care and attention.”
Some fans surprised
The nonprofit Friends of Rickwood was at the westside ballpark in case would-be patrons showed up for the regularly scheduled game. About 30 fans indeed showed up, including Rob Thaler of Owings Mills, Maryland, for whom a trip to a game at Rickwood had been on his bucket list.
“I got my ticket when they first went on sale,” he said. “I’m disappointed. I understand why they (canceled the Classic). You just can’t put people’s health and safety at risk.”
Thaler used his ticket for the game. Seth Herold and Kurt Ramaglia couldn’t. They drove over from Atlanta for the day game and then had to go back.
“We drove 2½ hours to eat some barbecue and go back home,” Herold said. “I’ve got family commitments in Atlanta tonight. I’ve wanted to see this field forever. I got some pictures and I’ll be back next year.”
Birmingham Mayor William Bell also visited Rickwood. While there, he told reporters the city is committing as much as $500,000 in bond money for emergency repairs to the ballpark. An assessment is being done to determine how best to repair water damage.
That assessment could be done by August.
‘We’ll be back’
While disappointed about not having the Rickwood Classic, Logan said the game at Regions Field provided a different flavor.
“You always in life make the best of whatever you’re dealt,” Logan said. “We’ll do the best that we can to entertain the fans that are here. There’s a lot of disappointed people who weren’t able to go to Rickwood this year, but we’ll be back next year.”
Natasha Rogers, director of the neighboring Negro Southern League Museum, echoed that sentiment.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the restoration of Rickwood Field because it is the oldest ballpark in the nation. But I am actually happy the game is taking place at Regions Field because it’s in my own backyard. We’re getting a lot of visitors here and it’s just fun to have all this baseball activity right here in the Parkside District.”