Fans lined the concourses early before venturing out to view the total solar eclipse. Columbia Fireflies officials expected more than 10,000 fans to come to Spirit Communications Park.
One of the loudest cheers Monday at Spirit Communications Park came at 2:41 p.m., when the total solar eclipse made its appearance above Columbia. The Columbia Fireflies baseball team said over 10,000 fans descended on the park to witness history.
The Fireflies began their game against the Rome Braves at 1:05 p.m., with the game suspended during the minutes of totality of the eclipse.
Many fans, protected from the sun’s rays earlier in the day under the concourse, made their way out from under the overhang to watch the eclipse approach totality. Once it became dark and people started to remove their eclipse-watching glasses, cellphones and cameras began snapping, trying to capture the event for eternity.
Andy and Stacy Knight made the trip from Tidewater, Va., for the chance to see baseball and the total eclipse.
“We received an e-mail from Major League Baseball giving us the four baseball stadiums that would have totality and we decided to make the drive,” Andy Knight said. “It was a five-hour trip, so not that far.”
The Knights said they arrived in Florence on Friday and made their way into Columbia Saturday. Stacy Knight said they took in the sights around the baseball stadium while also doing a little shopping.
“We didn’t realize that this was the former site of the S.C. Mental Hospital,” Knight said. “We also found an old cemetery and had a picnic and spent about $150 at the Village at Sandhill.”
Jarvis Harrison and Harini Sarvanas traveled from Charlotte for a day trip to see the eclipse. Harrison, a Columbia native, said he wanted to visit the ballpark.
“This reminded me of the Charlotte Knights minor league team in North Carolina,” Harrison said. “We didn’t get the chance to see Tim Tebow, but we still wanted to see the team.”
Mayor Steve Benjamin visited the stadium earlier in the day.
“This is exciting, any time you can take advantage of science and God’s grace, and put your city on a pedestal, it’s a wonderful opportunity,” Benjamin said. “I’m so thankful everyone came together to turn an already unique opportunity into a special one. I look forward to welcoming all our visitors who are marveling in this spectacle.”
The visit to the Fireflies game was the second event of the day for Benjamin, who said he was going to try to make four stops before joining his family to view the eclipse at totality.
The Columbia Fireflies are a partner in Total Eclipse Weekend Columbia, S.C., a regional tourism campaign that also includes Experience Columbia SC; the City of Columbia; Capital City Lake Murray Country; the S.C. State Museum; and One Columbia for Arts and History.