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Great Moments in Mets Minor League History: The Columbia eclipse game

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The Columbia Fireflies playing in the middle of a solar eclipse was a great moment in Mets minors history.

Solar Eclipse Visible Across Swath Of U.S.
Fans at Spirit Communications Park
Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Just prior to his death in May 1524, Nicolaus Copernicus published De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), a groundbreaking treatise that laid out mathematical proofs that formulated a heliocentric, non-Ptolemaic cosmology. While not the first to do so, Copernicus had more technology available to him than the Greek and Islamic astrologers that came before him, and was able to prove that the earth did not occupy the center of our solar system with more conclusive evidence.

Given that the earth revolves around the sun, objects periodically pass between the earth and the sun. With the massive amounts of satellites and other space debris that orbit the earth, this happens constantly and often without being perceived. Periodically, larger objects, such as the International Space Station, can be seen transiting in front of the sun. Even more rare is when the moon itself does so: solar eclipses.

On August 21, 2017, a solar eclipse took place that was visible over the entire contiguous United States. While most of the country experienced a partial eclipse, 14 states were on paths that experienced total eclipses: Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and finally, South Carolina.

With Salem, Oregon in the path of the totality, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, Short-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, scheduled a 9:35 AM game to take advantage of the solar phenomenon. With Bowling Green, Kentucky in the path of the totality, the Bowling Green Hot Rods, Low-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, scheduled a 10:35 AM start. With Memphis, Tennessee in the path of the totality, the Memphis Redbirds, Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, scheduled a 11:55 AM start. With Greenville, South Carolina in the path of the totality, the Greenville Drive, Low-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, scheduled a 1:01 PM start. Also in the path of the totality, the Columbia Fireflies scheduled a 1:05 PM start to finish their series with the Rome Braves.

With the crowd of 9,629- the largest in Spirit Communications Park history- all having been given special glasses to watch the eclipse upon entry to the stadium, the game began as any other game would. Wearing special uniforms to commemorate the day, the Fireflies took the lead in the bottom of the first when Ian Strom laced a Joey Wentz offering into right field that scored Gene Cone and Luis Carpio, both of whom reached base via walks. Colin Holderman kept the Braves off the board in the second but had a hiccup in the third, allowing Rome to score a pair of their own on a wild pitch and an error. The Colafly offense quickly got back to work, scoring three additional runs in the bottom of the inning on a Brandon Brosher two-run homer and an Arnaldo Berrios RBI single. Holderman allowed another run to score in the top of the fourth, but was bailed out by his defense- Berrios made a spectacular catch at the wall, robbing Braves right fielder Izzy Wilson of a home run and limiting the damage to just a sac fly.

The game was stopped between innings in the fourth for a prescheduled twenty-minute eclipse delay. For those in the crowd that afternoon, it should be a memory for a lifetime.

Almost anticlimactically, the game resumed after the eclipse ended and light returned to the field. Holderman pitched another inning and then was replaced by Ryder Ryan, who pitched a pair of scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh. The Fireflies played a five-hour, 16-inning marathon the evening before, using five relievers (and a position player), so manager Jose Leger elected to roll the dice rather than further tax his bullpen, bringing in position player Jay Jabs to pitch the eighth. Jabs had some experience pitching, tossing 6.1 innings the year before when he was still at Franklin Pierce University, and he rewarded Leger with a 1-2-3 inning, even recording a strikeout. Keaton Aldridge pitched the ninth and allowed Rome to rally, giving up a pair of runs to tie the game up at 5-5.

In the bottom of the inning, Luis Carpio and J.J. Franco quickly made two outs. Ian Strom laced a single into right to give the Fireflies life and then stole second to get into scoring position. The next batter, Brandon Brosher, drew a walk, putting two men on and bringing Andres Gimenez to the plate. The 18-year-old shortstop, who was hitting a healthy .278/.355/.359 up until that point, took the first pitch for a ball and then fouled off two consecutive pitches. Rome reliever Walter Borkovich threw something down and away to Gimenez, who went with it for a line drive into right. Stom, scrambled home from second and the Fireflies won the ballgame.