“Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd …” After 3,000 or more times, that is still music to Steve Batterson's ears. Steve covers nearly all of the games of the Davenport minor league ball team, now called the River Bandits, through the years of being known as the Angels or the Swing. Through more at-bats than can be calculated, Steve has been in the press box.
Does covering 3,000 minor league games get boring?
“Not a bit,” says Steve. “I understand that every game is different. You never know the outcome of any sport you’re covering. That’s what makes it a thrill for a sports writer.”
Right now, it’s football for Steve. Saturday, he was writing the lead story from the Iowa-North Texas game.
HE'S BEEN with us for 32½ years and scoffs at the suggestion that he will write anything but sports. “It’s all I know; I was even sports editor of the Daily Iowan when I was a student at the University of Iowa,” Batterson, a native of Washington, Iowa, says.
He enjoys covering all sports, major or minor. “They’re all great subjects,” he says, just as enthused of writing about a first down as a first base hit.
But as we talk, I get a feel for the appeal he finds covering a minor league baseball club. “It’s the kids,” he says, “who are trying their best to make the big show.” The big show is what many rookies call the major leagues.
"I CAN TELL how hard they are trying; how they’re always on the field in the afternoon before a night game, throwing and catching and running. It’s a different story line before every game. They’re all chasing dreams. It’s talking to and watching them play their best.
"Those kids out there are dream chasers. Some make it; very few hit the big show. It’s a hard-knock life on the way up. It’s bus rides from one ball park to another, staying sometimes with host families, eating on the run. For all the hours and hard work, the pay isn’t great, maybe about $1,200 a month for a short season.”
Steve praises top brass like Dave Heller, who owns the River Bandits and three other teams, for making sure their players are well-up in nutrition, properly fed. “I remember when before a game, a team would have a loaf of bread and peanut butter and jelly on the training table as their food.”
After 32½ years covering the minors, Steve knows it all. He knows the locker room. If a team wins, it’s cheers and noisy happiness and music. If the team loses, it’s silence, quiet as a graveyard.
It’s all in the game.