Thinking outside the press box

By Gary Lloyd

The Pentagon was always the goal.

The one in Arlington, Va.? Lord, no. The one in Trussville.

Ask any man my age: If he was a boy growing up here in Trussville, and he played Little League baseball, his hope was to spend any free time, before or after his weekend game, in a folding chair on the top floor of the Trussville Baseball Association press box, fingertips a mess with concession stand nacho cheese.

Me in the press box versus me on the sidelines

It was the best view in the park, and it made a kid feel like he was on top of the world. My goal, long after my Little League career ended, was to spend a lifetime in press boxes, traveling with my laptop and tape recorder to press boxes across this country, from Turner Field in Atlanta to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

I started covering high school sports in college. The first football game I ever covered in Tuscaloosa, I do not remember there being a press box. The next week, I found a seat in the press box, which became a safe haven for dozens of folks from the monsoon outside. I ruined my shoes interviewing the coach on the field after the game. At another high school game, I sat on a flipped-over five-gallon bucket.

You pay your dues as a sports reporter, but every so often it pays off. I watched the Crimson Tide from the Bryant-Denny Stadium press box two seasons, and drank enough free Dr. Pepper to embarrass Forrest Gump. It’s another world up there. An athletics department staffer hands you game stats while you eat your third ice cream sandwich.

High school press setups, however, humble you often. I tripped on a dip in the floor – was it a hole covered by the carpet? – at a baseball park in Montgomery. In an unnamed closer-to-home town’s press box, I was hit with a hat a mad dad threw in frustration. His son wasn’t even on the team. I lost three pounds in sweat in a tiny, stuffy press box at another local field, a wooden structure that at the time seemed more like a makeshift deer blind than a press box. Heck, it may have been a deer blind, after all.

I looked forward to football games at the Hoover Met, because I could charge my phone in the press box, and maybe even eat a slice or two of pizza. Covering Clay-Chalkville’s 2014 state championship from the Jordan-Hare Stadium press box was memorable, sans the recent tragedy that was the K*ck S*x in 2013.

I’m rarely in a press box these days. I can say with some certainty I’ve never been in the press boxes at the home stadiums of Hewitt-Trussville, Clay-Chalkville and Pinson Valley, the programs I’ve covered most. I suppose growing up can change your perspective.

The games aren’t really about my view from a stadium’s highest point. They’re about covering them from the front lines, where I see Sharpie-inscribed wrist tape honoring a teammate who died, where I watch coaches wrap their arms around their players, where I’m within earshot of the postgame prayer.

It may not be a press box seat, but those are the best views in the stadium.

Gary Lloyd is the author of six books and a contributing writer to the Cahaba Sun.

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