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Lewiston, Idaho is a baseball town

Lewiston, Idaho is a baseball town

By: Ben Smith - May 23, 2024

  • While at the NAIA World Series, columnist Ben Smith says if you like the outdoors, there’s plenty of it up where the Snake and Clearwater Rivers meet.

If you’d told me a month ago that I’d be in Idaho this week playing baseball I’d have looked at you like you’d lost your mind. At about that time, we were in what was one of the worst offensive slumps that I could ever remember. I’d even heard the comment that our opposing teams could have played without a glove. That didn’t seem too far fetched given how many soft fly-balls we were hitting. However, in late April we caught fire, won a bunch of games in a row, and now find ourselves back at the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.

William Carey University has been playing baseball since the 1950’s. During that time, WCU has one national championship (1969), and this season will be the fifth overall time to play in the World Series. The ’69 championship team was the first ever baseball national title for a school from Mississippi. I’ve been fortunate to have been a part of three of those five world series appearances, and I can tell you that it never gets old. Each time is just as special as the first. 

Being a smaller university, most folks don’t know much about the NAIA World Series, so I figured I’d write a little about that this week. For starters, for the last 23 years it’s been held in Lewiston, Idaho. Lewiston is located about 2 hours southeast of Spokane, Washington. Not exactly a centralized location for teams across the country, and I can tell you from experience that it’s a pain in the butt to get here. However, once you do finally arrive here, it’s fantastic. When most of us think of college baseball towns this probably isn’t one that comes to mind. You likely think of Hattiesburg, affectionately named “Baseburg” during the spring, Starkville, or Baton Rouge. Lewiston absolutely deserves to be mentioned with the others.

I don’t know what this town looks like for the entire college baseball season, but I can tell you what it’s like for the two weeks of the world series. There’s just over 35,500 people in the town and a great majority of them will take in games at Harris Field during the series. Whereas most small college sports don’t draw a ton of fans, the NAIA World Series will have several thousand fans at most all of the games. All of the businesses in town display world series logos and welcome signs on their windows. The restaurants, obviously busier than normal, offer different deals for teams to dine in their establishments. The people of the town are incredibly welcoming to all of the players, coaches, and fans. We often speak of “southern hospitality,” and I’ve seen that “northwestern hospitality” is a thing too. 

The older that I get, the more I judge a place by the food. While nothing beats good southern cuisine, they do have something up here that I’ve never found anywhere else. Lewiston is known for what they call “steak bites.” Y’all, let me tell you, they are one hundred percent the best thing west of the Mississippi River. Chunks of sirloin steak seasoned, breaded, and fried to a medium well temperature. They will make your tongue slap your brains out. We’ve also discovered another restaurant in town called “Waffles and More” that we like to eat at for breakfast/lunch. The title of the restaurant pretty well sums it up – they’ve got a little bit of everything and none of it is bad. Needless to say, the food here is worth the trip by itself.

If you like the outdoors, and I’m assuming you do if you’re reading this, there’s plenty of it up here. Lewiston sits at the confluence of two rivers, the Snake and the Clearwater. I haven’t had the opportunity to do it yet, but I hear the fishing around here is really good. Anglers have the opportunity to catch several different species of fish from what we are used to in the South. The Snake River features some of the best Sturgeon fishing around. I see pictures all over town of people posing with eight to ten-foot sturgeon. The Clearwater River is world famous for some of the best Steelhead and Salmon fishing.

Never having been here during the fall and winter months, I cannot tell you how good the hunting is, but from the amount of mule deer that I see every day up here I would think it should be pretty good. There aren’t any elk in the valley here, but there are both elk and moose just northeast of here. I noticed several signs on the drive in from Spokane that read “Moose Crossing” and some of our players saw some during the ride. One thing the valley does have in common with us is rattlesnakes. I’m not sure what it is about this area but there are plenty of rattling nope-ropes. The locals make sure to let us know to watch our steps when we get off of the beaten path. 

I know this is a little different from my normal column, but I’ve always liked learning about new places around the country. It’s likely that if I’d never been involved with NAIA baseball that I would never have heard of Lewiston and that would have been a shame. It’s a great baseball town, incredibly beautiful, and full of people that are as hospitable as any place I’ve been. If you ever get the chance to visit Lewiston I highly recommend it. Make sure you get the steak bites!

About the Author(s)
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Ben Smith

A native of Laurel, Mississippi, Ben played baseball at William Carey University before joining the coaching staff at WCU, where he’s spent the last 16 years. He also serves as a History Instructor in the WCU School of Arts and Letters. During the Covid shutdown in 2020, he began the outdoor blog “Pinstripes to Camo”. The blog quickly grew into a weekly column and was awarded as the #1 Sports Column in the state by the Mississippi Press Association. During that time, “Pinstripes to Camo” also became a weekly podcast, featuring various outdoor guests from around the country, and has grown into one of the top outdoor podcasts in the Southeast.
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