While people in Columbia, South Carolina, will have their gaze fixed upon the skies Monday afternoon to witness a natural phenomenon, the Rome Braves will be busy trying to win a ballgame.
At least as long as the light holds out.
The Class A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves is in Columbia playing against their South Atlantic League Southern Division foes in a series that is set to wrap up Monday with a 1:05 p.m. game at Spirit Communications Park.
Columbia is near the center of the path of totality of the solar eclipse that will race across the United States, with the peak of the eclipse expected to happen shortly after 2:30 p.m.
Rome manager Randy Ingle knows the event — in which the moon passes between the Earth and the sun — is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but has to think about the game against the Fireflies while it is happening.
“We’ll just have to wait and see what happens,” Ingle said last week. “Hopefully it doesn’t interfere with the game too much and the people there will get something good out of it and enjoy.”
The veteran manager’s concern stems from the game being stopped for the total eclipse, which is expected to last around 2 minutes and 30 seconds in Columbia, near the center of the path of totality.
“But I don’t know where the pitcher is going to be at in an inning, where he’ll be in the pitch count,” Ingle said. “Hopefully it will be where we can change a pitcher and he doesn’t have to sit and wait.”
Ingle said the Fireflies are providing his staff and players with special certified eclipse viewing glasses, as well as everyone in attendance, as part of their “Total Eclipse of the Park” promotion.
Rome pitcher Joey Wentz is the scheduled starter for Monday’s game. He echoed Ingles’ thoughts about the halt in action.
“It will be cool to witness, but I wish it wasn’t during the time of the game,” Wentz said. “But it will be cool, I guess. I’ve never seen one, and it’s definitely not something you see every day.”
An eclipse might not be the only thing Rome has to contend with Monday afternoon.
According to the National Weather Service, Columbia has a 20 to 30 percent chance of rain in the forecast for Monday, with a 53 percent chance of cloud cover at 2 p.m. Still, the eclipse will make it quite darker over the city and the ballpark, no matter if the skies are clear or not.
As an added novelty, the host Fireflies will wear specialty glow-in-the-dark jerseys in the game. The primary black jerseys will feature numbers and graphics that glow along with a sketch of the moon covering the sun.