Tom is a freelance journalist and has contributed to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Baltimore Sun among others. He is the author of three books.
Locally, he's a regular contributor to the Asheville Citizen-Times and Blue Ridge Outdoors
Over a decade ago, I compiled a photo history of baseball in Baltimore entitled, fittingly, Baseball in Baltimore. While doing so, I sifted through 1,000’s of picture of the Orioles and their predecessors. So while out on a recent run in Asheville’s River Arts District, I immediately recognized the painted rendering of an iconic photo of Hall-of-Famer Brooks Robinson making a diving catch in game three of the 1970 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.
His stellar fielding helped the O’s to a series win in just five games, and prompted Reds’ manager Sparky Anderson to comment, “I’m beginning to see Brooks (Robinson) in my sleep. If I dropped a paper plate, he’d pick it up on one hop and throw me out at first.”
Asheville’s artistic take on Robinson can be found by turning from Lyman Street onto Old Lyman Street and looking left to the mural-laden warehouse as you run past.
November 18, 2021 (Savannah, Ga.) After never having been to Savannah in my 55 years, chance would have it that I was there for the second time in two weeks. This time, the weather was much improved and I worked in an early run before heading back to Asheville. The challenge with running in Savannah is not stopping every 10 feet for all the spots meriting a photo.
Although both visits were short, the best locale that I found for running unimpeded by traffic was the city’s picturesque Forsyth Park (first and fourth photos), the city’s oldest and largest park.
November 6, 2021 (Savannah, Ga.) — Savannah’s Grayson Stadium is one of the lesser-known architectural gems of a city replete with them. On a recent trip there to run in a planned race (that was sidelined by a N’oreaster) I ventured to the grand old ballpark originally built in 1926. As impressive as the stadium was, the nearly half-mile-long promenade of Spanish moss marking its approach in the city’s Daffin Park was its equal.
Grayson is home to the Savannah Bananas of the Coastal Plain League (CPL), a wooden bat collegiate summer league, and in 2021 captured the CPL title in the sixth year of the franchise’s history.
July 21, 2021 (Asheville, N.C.) — The Tourists are 28-37 and currently in sixth place in the High-A East’s South Division. On Tuesday night, they were handed a 15-2 home loss by the visiting Hickory Crawdads who sit one game above the Tourists in the division as a result of the lopsided win.
First baseman/OF Scott Schreiber has proven the top hitter to appear in a Tourists’ uniform in 2021. The University of Nebraska product posted a .319 average, 10 homers, and 29 RBIs in the team’s first 41 games. Schreiber was then promoted to the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks on July 3. The right-hander is currently batting .325 through 12 games for the Hooks.
Asheville City Soccer – The Asheville City SC men’s side finished their inaugural season in the USL2 with a 6-6-2 mark. Their 2021 campaign concluded with a 1-0 loss to Dalton Red Wolves SC on July 13 at UNCA’s Greenwood Field.
The women’s side competed in the WPSL’s Carolinas Conference and finished second in its Southern Division with a 5-1 record in their return to play in 2021 after a 2020 season sidelined by Covid-19.
The Blues’ campaign concluded with a 2-0 postseason loss to the Charlotte Eagles on July 14 in Charlotte. The outcome was a reversal of a match between the two earlier in the season, when Asheville City enjoyed one of the biggest wins in its short history when it upset the perennially strong Eagles at Greenwood Field.
UNCA assistant coach Molly Dwyer led all Blues’ scorers with three goals and an assist on the year. For Asheville City, it was their third campaign overall and in the WPSL, which continues to solidify its competitive place just below the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in women’s professional soccer in the US. (Photos: ACSC – @tatemacqueenphoto)
Parting Shot: Swannanoa River, Warren Wilson College
June 22, 2021 (Asheville, N.C.) — As the calendar officially turns to summer, the Tourists will be in town all week to host the Winston-Salem Dash (formerly of the Carolina League) starting tonight at 6:35 p.m. at McCormick Field. Asheville is coming off a six-game home series split with the Aberdeen IronBirds. The IronBirds, along with Winston-Salem and Asheville, joined the newly-created “High-A East” this spring as part of the re-organization of MiLB.
Through 41 games the Tourists are 18-23 and in sixth place in the circuit’s South Division. Winston-Salem arrives in Asheville with a 20-22 mark and 1.5 games ahead of the Tourists. Included on the roster of the Dash is leftfielderAlex Destino. Destino is a native of nearby Weaverville and was selected in the 14th round of the 2017 draft by the Dash’s parent, the Chicago White Sox. He is a career .270 hitter in the minors and has started 40 of 42 games this year for the visitors.
August 14, 2020 (Asheville, N.C.) — Going forward with Fieldhouse, I’ll only be posting intermittently as I’ve shifted focus to coaching and completing existing and new book projects (see Twitter @tomflynn51 for any updates there). —Tom
July 14, 2020 (Asheville, N.C.)— With so much uncertainty at the major league level on the resumption of play, it seemed increasingly inevitable in June that any affiliated minor league baseball season would need to be scuttled. That inevitability became a reality on June 30 when MiLB announced that it was canceling the 2020 season.
Locally, that translates into the Tourists being sidelined for the summer. In the past week, the team made the most of an empty stadium and a challenging situation when they announced the opening of McCormick’s Summer Grill at McCormick Field. Fans can enjoy the rare opportunity to eat on a minor league baseball field without dodging liners and the team will offer a portion of its ballpark menu for diners.
College Football — Area college football (including Western Carolina, Mars Hill, and Brevard) will likely make initial decisions on the conference level as to fall play this season. Nationally, there’s been a steady stream of updates on anticipated play, including the cancellation of the Ivy League fall sports seasons. The PAC-12 and Big-10 have announced conference-only seasons, with that still subject to change. The New York Times recently ran an excellent article on the probability, or lack thereof, of college football this fall.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (June 22, 2020) — While its season ended in March, there is still good news coming from the UNCA baseball team, as senior right-hander Blake Brown signed a free-agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies last Thursday. “We are very excited and happy for Blake and his family,” said Bulldogs’ head coach Scott Friedholm in a press release announcing the signing. “He has worked extremely hard over the past few years to put himself in this position. The Phillies are getting an extremely smart and competitive young man.”
Brown is the first Bulldog to sign a contract with an MLB team since pitcher Ryan Dullwas selected by the Oakland A’s in the 32nd round in 2012.
The righty from Dallas, North Carolina, made four appearances in 2020, all as a starter, and posted a 1-0 record, with a 1.89 ERA. He struck out 26 and held opposing batters to a .141 average. Brown struck out a combined 17 batters in his final two starts of the shortened campaign.
Brown will strive to become the fourth Bulldog to make the bigs as a player, following Ty Wigginton, Dull, and Kevin Mattison. Former Bulldog Mike Schildtis currently the skipper of the St. Louis Cardinals.
ASHEVILLE, NC (June 13, 2020) — Tourists Baseball — Minor League Baseball (MiLB) remains in something more troubling than limbo as 2020 continues with no sign of a return of baseball. At the game’s highest level,MLB and the MLB Players Association cannot agree on how or when to begin a 2020 season. Given that, there is nothing that MiLB teams can do to size up rosters that are effectively set by their major league affiliates.
Compounding that, this past offseason MLB indicated its desire to pare 42 teams (following the 2020 campaign) from the ranks of the 160 teams that currently comprise the affiliated minor leagues. The Asheville Tourists (as well as the Greenville Drive), fortunately, were not included on that list. That removes one layer of concern, but still leaves open the question of how long a minor-league team can exist without baseball. Teams in the greatest peril are those that funded recent expansions, or new ballparks, with bond issuances that they will have difficulty servicing.
College Baseball — More disappointing news for area baseball fans included the announcement in mid-May that Furman would be permanently discontinuing its program, as well as its men’s lacrosse program. The program dated back 118 years, and last advanced to the NCAA Regionals in 2005.
The program cuts were to reduce costs, as both baseball and lacrosse have (relatively) large rosters and are non-revenue sports. Reducing college athletic programs is occurring nationwide during the pandemic. It is an unfortunate development. University accounting departments often lack the ability to conceptualize and assign an intrinsic valuation to teams that serve as cost centers in operating budgets.
Football budgets, when treated as revenue centers at the Division I level, are much more readily understood by both internal staff and boosters.
ASHEVILLE, NC (May 2, 2020) — While there are certainly some good sports movies out there to pass the time, limiting yourself to a steady diet of them while confined to quarters might only make the pandemic feel that much longer.
An easy alternative is to rent the epic “1917”which made its way into theaters late last year and is now available to stream/rent for those who missed it on the big screen. The film won two Oscars and two Golden Globes and was directed and co-written by “American Beauty” and “Skyfall” director Sam Mendes.
Its premise is simple and proves the cornerstone of its overall strength. It begins with two short sentences, “Blake – Blake, pick a man. Bring your kit.” Blake is Lance Corporal Tom Blake (played by Dean-Charles Chapman), and the man he picks is fellow lance corporal, Will Schofield (George Mackay). In response to the abrupt order that awakens him from an open-field doze in northern France, Blake rouses a nearby sleeping Schofield and the two are quickly directed to General Erinmore (Colin Firth) to find out why they’ve been summonsed.
Erinmore informs the pair that they are to hand deliver an urgent message to call off a British attack planned for the next morning, one that has been baited by a refortifying German army feigning withdrawal.
The second battalion of the Devonshire Regiment, or “Devons” as they’re called among the troops, is under the direction of Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is planning the attack under the mistaken belief that he has the Germans on the run. The Devons are some nine miles from where Blake and Schofield are stationed, in woods just beyond the French town of Écoust and – critically – on the far side of what is believed by the British rank-and-file to be the German front line. The two need to reach Mackenzie by the following morning if they are to avert a looming massacre.
A slight insight as to why a general would randomly select a lance corporal for such a critical task comes when Erin tells Blake, “The sergeant tells me you’re good with maps.” Erinmore also chooses Blake as the corporal’s older brother Joseph is in the Devons, and is likely to die in the attack along with 1,600 other troops if it isn’t halted. That gives Blake ample motivation, coupled with an important working skill, to take on the nearly impossible task with the needed zeal.
With that scene, Mendes quickly puts the audience on a soldier’s footing. For the remainder of the film, we only know what has just happened or what is unfolding at the moment. There are no long descriptions, no cutaways, no subplots developing elsewhere that are then woven back into the main of the story or that afford viewers some insight that the soldiers lack. Through the use of an innovative filming method, Mendes simulates a single, continuous take, and we move along with the two men immediately from Erinmore’s dugout and into the fray.
Shortly after their meeting with the general the pair encounter a grizzled and battle-weary Lieutenant Leslie played briefly (and perfectly) by Andrew Scott. Leslie’s job is to inform them of where the best spot is to go “over the top”, the WWI term for climbing out from a trench and into the cratered, barb-wired, and casualty-laden stretch of earth separating the stalemated British and German front lines known as “no man’s land.”
The lieutenant’s response to what he sees as a ludicrous request is first contempt and then resigned sarcasm. Despite both, Leslie maintains a practicality under duress that is far more valuable to the two than his lapses in social niceties are costly. He provides Blake and Schofield with critical information on what awaits them once they enter no man’s land.
The interaction with Leslie gives a glimpse into the heart of the movie, one which proves especially valuable in the throes of a pandemic and couldn’t possibly have been anticipated when it was being made. The success or failure of the two corporals on their mission to save the Devons ultimately falls not on their skill with a rifle or a map (although both help), but on their ability to read people who have lost or kept some semblance of grounding as the normal world abruptly gave way beneath them into the lethal unreality of World War I.
The simple structure of the plot and the movie’s unique filming leaves viewers with ample opportunity to focus fully on those moments when the two come upon others, without fear of missing some important thread of the overall narrative. It is through those moments that the message of “1917” is delivered, and to this eye it is done exceptionally well.
Nowhere is that better illustrated than through Schofield’s chance encounter with a young French woman (Clair Duburcq) and an infant hiding in the midst of a war-ravaged Écoust. The infant is not hers, nor does she know whose baby it is, but she retains the humanity that is fully absent from the horror engulfing her village and cares for it. We watch Schofield’s reaction to the woman and infant and wonder if his own trials in simply reaching Écoust have cost him the ability to extend kindness to the two.