LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Baseball fans in more than a half-dozen cities from Oregon to South Carolina crowded into minor league ballparks Monday to watch the solar eclipse at game-day viewing parties.
The Lincoln Saltdogs wore special black-and-white jerseys and stopped their game just before 1 p.m. to watch the eclipse darken the sky. Spectators erupted in applause at 1:02 p.m. as the moon crawled in front of the sun until the whole sky looked like a late-evening sunset. The air turned chilly and went still.
“It made me all teary-eyed,” said Robyn Mason, who watched with her husband, Greg, from a grassy embankment near the third base outfield. “It was just so momentous. Just really cool — and very pretty.”
Other teams hosting events included the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Oregon, the Idaho Falls Chukars, the Bowling Green Hot Rods in Kentucky, Tennessee’s Nashville Sounds and the Greenville Drive, Columbia Fireflies and Charleston RiverDogs, all in South Carolina.
The Volcanoes’ game against the Hillsboro Hops started late because the Hops got stuck in traffic. The game stopped briefly in the first inning as fans and players paused to watch the eclipse. Many players donned disposable protective glasses and sat in the grass in front of each dugout. At one point, the sellout crowd chanted, “Let’s go science!”
In Nebraska, the Saltdogs sold game tickets to buyers from as far away as the United Kingdom and Germany, team spokesman Michael Shively said.
One of the Germans was Theo Kleinfeld, 65, who flew to Lincoln last week so he could photograph the eclipse at the Saltdogs’ game against the Gary Southshore Railcats.
Kleinfeld said he watched the 1999 eclipse that crossed Germany and traveled to Shanghai for another in 2009. But in Shanghai, he said, the sky was overcast.
“This is a good opportunity,” Kleinfeld said as he set up his camera outside Saltdogs Stadium. “If it doesn’t work today, I’ll just have to come back in 2024,” when the next total solar eclipse in the U.S. will occur.
Paul Kobs, 38, of Minneapolis, took a day off work and drove to Lincoln with his girlfriend. The couple started planning the trip three months ago and picked Lincoln because it was one of the places closest to their home to see the eclipse.
Kobs said they initially planned to drive down to Beatrice, Nebraska, where eclipse viewers gathered at the Homestead National Monument, but the cloudy forecast for that area persuaded him to stay in Lincoln.
“This was really the easiest place to get to that was in the path of the totality,” he said as he walked into the Lincoln stadium. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event — that minute and a half of experiencing something out of this world.”
Jordan Wilson and his wife, Nicole, brought their 5-year-old son, Izayah, to the game to see the eclipse. On the way down from their home in Omaha, the family sat through bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 80.
“It’s probably the last full eclipse we’ll see in our lifetimes,” he said.
In South Carolina, the Columbia Fireflies celebrated a “Total Eclipse of the Park” event as they hosted the Rome Braves. The Fireflies wore special glow-in-the-dark jerseys that were scheduled to be auctioned after the game, with proceeds benefiting local science, technology, math and engineering programs.
No Major League Baseball games coincided with the event, but some players checked out the eclipse as their teams warmed up to play hours later. And the cosmic spectacle caught the interest of teams from other sports preparing for their season openers.
Tennessee Titans coach Mike Mularkey scheduled practice to end in time so that the team could watch the eclipse on the practice field.
“It was pretty cool to be out there with the rest of the team, looking like 9 o’ clock at night at 1:30,” linebacker Derrick Morgan said.
As the Titans gathered to watch the eclipse, Bruce Springsteen’s “Blinded By The Light” and “Dancing In The Dark” and Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses At Night” played over the loudspeaker.
Ohio State defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle said he and his teammates were all excited to see the eclipse. “We’ve been talking about it in the locker room,” he said.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers tweeted out their practice play list for the day, with songs ranging from Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” to Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
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AP Sports Writers Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tennessee; Anne M. Peterson in Portland, Oregon; Mitch Stacy in Columbus, Ohio; and Dave Campbell in Minneapolis, and Associated Press writer Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.