NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Because of the effects of tornadoes, baseball teams from Mayflower and Vilonia were not able to celebrate Senior Night on their home fields.
They jointly did it Tuesday night before an officially announced crowd of 8.014 at Dickey-Stephens Park, home of the Arkansas Travelers.
They did it on a perfect baseball evening.
It was a night for Eagles in both communities, all of whom had their lives change dramatically nine days ago, to soar emotionally.
All proceeds from concessions and donations went to disaster relief in both communities.
Cheerleaders from both teams lined each entrance with buckets. And those buckets filled with bills, many of large denominations, and gift cards. That was the scoreboard on this evening.
An hour before gametime, every regular seat was taken and the berms in the outfield began to fill. By gametime, fans were lined two- and three-deep in the concourse area. The lines at the concession stands were long, jammed and happy.
Gov. Mike Beebe was there, accompanying Vilonia mayor James Firestone and Mayflower mayor Randy Holland, who threw out the ceremonial first pitches.
Arkansas football coach Bret Beliema and basketball coach Mike Anderson, along with UA football star Travis Swanson, signed autographs on the concourse.
There were beauty queens galore from both communities.
Volunteers sold commemorative T-shirts.
There was even a live bald eagle from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Groups of several high school teams were there.
The seniors of both teams and their families were introduced before the game.
A combined choir from Mayflower and Vilonia High Schools sang the National Anthem.
Country singer Matt Huff sang a new song he dedicated to both communities about "picking up the pieces."
As teams lined up behind him, Walt Hollis, pastor of Lifeline Church of Mayflower, which had its building destroyed by the tornado, led a prayer.
"We are not rivals but comrads," he said about the two teams.
Vilonia won the game, 3-0, but few people paid a lot of attention to the scoreboard. Afterward, it was a night of hugs, photos and fun.
On a gorgeous May evening, everybody was an Eagle.