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Buice column: A pandemic with a hurricane and an earthquake

While continuing to deal with the relentless coronavirus pandemic, the state of North Carolina also mixed in a hurricane and an earthquake in the last 10 days.

We could see the hurricane coming — following all the weather forecasts — as Isaias zipped through the eastern part of the state last Monday, bringing coastal and inland flooding, and spawning several tornadoes.

But the earthquake? Raise your hand if you saw that in your future.

We were actually on the road headed to an early church service Sunday morning and didn’t notice anything a few minutes after 8 a.m. when, some 60 to 70 miles away, the state’s strongest earthquake in more than 100 years really shook things up for many people near the epicenter.

The 5.1 magnitude earthquake occurred a couple of miles southeast of Sparta — up in the mountains of Alleghany County not far from the N.C.-Virginia border.

The aftershocks were felt in the Triad, and there were all kinds of shaking going on extending to Tennessee, Kentucky and South Carolina.

We had just settled into our pew at church when my wife’s brother called from Yadkin County, which is only about 30 miles from Sparta, asking if we felt anything. He went on to say he was in the shower and thought something had exploded in the kitchen.

Across the street, her dad was still in bed and said he thought he heard something and believed it was the garage door going up. After realizing that wasn’t the case, he described the sensation as continuous roaring thunder.

Others throughout the area offered hearing and feeling all different kinds of rattles, shakes and sounds.

And just imagine what it was like in Sparta. I’m sure you saw some of the images.

The only larger earthquake in the state, according to the U.S. Geological Society, was a 5.2 magnitude earthquake just south of Asheville in 1916. Of the 10 largest quakes since 1900, eight of them came in mountainous regions.

We’ve had a little bit of everything in these continuing days of corona, including that deluge last Thursday night where many parts of Clemmons got around five inches of rain in an awful thunderstorm that just went on and on.

What will be next?

• • • • •

At last, baseball. After a lost summer, I finally got to see a baseball game. Live.

When everything shut down in March because of the pandemic, I wondered if any sports would come back, especially as spring transitioned into summer.

But I was especially yearning for some baseball. That’s always been my favorite but realized the advancing months on the 2020 calendar were a sure sign that Minor League Baseball, including the Winston-Salem Dash and Greensboro Grasshoppers, wasn’t going to happen.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball players and owners couldn’t agree on their schedule and the money on what was going to be an abbreviated season at best. And even if it happened, no fans would be allowed to attend the games.

Then it dawned on me. What about some of the independent leagues? Maybe somebody was playing ball somewhere.

I was familiar with going to see the Morehead City Marlins play on some beach trips but had never really looked into who played in their league, although I knew it was called the Coastal Plain League. But we don’t exactly live in the Coastal Plain here.

But then I started to do some research. And there it was — the High Point-Thomasville HiToms. I knew the name but never paid much attention in the past because I had all the baseball I needed.

So I found their schedule and immediately planned a trip in the middle of July to historic Finch Field, which was built in 1935. The night I picked was hot and humid, but there was supposedly little chance of much rain, just a few scattered showers. I guess you know what is coming next. It rained. Lots. But the team owner put on his boots and started pushing the lakes that formed on the infield. Others in the unofficial grounds crew pitched in to help, and after an hour delay, they played ball.

When the first pitch popped the catcher’s mitt, I said to myself, “Hello, old friend. I sure missed you.”

It was wonderful. The HiToms put a good team on the field with a bunch of ACC players, including Wake Forest pitching ace Ryan Cusick, and other players from schools such as App State, East Carolina and UNCG.

I went back again for one of the HiToms’ final home games in early August. It was just me and up to 25 fans, which is the limit these days because of the restrictions from … you know what.

But this was baseball in its purest form. These guys play for the love of the game and hope they might draw attention and eventually get a shot in the minors for one of the MLB’s organizations.

It was heaven on earth to be able to see a real baseball game again. I’ll be back next year, even if the guys getting paid return to field.

Baseball!