Freight trains are running very close to golfers at the US Open

Of all the cool things about this year’s U.S. Open, the coolest is that there are train tracks running alongside the 16th and 17th holes at Chambers Bay on Puget Sound — and freight trains running on them while the golfers are playing.

And the golfers, who usually go ballistic when you step on a twig, are playing through.

Wouldn’t you love to see one of those course marshals holding up the QUIET, PLEASE sign as one of those Union Pacific locomotives rumbles by?

Thus far there haven’t been any reports of an errant Titleist striking one of the trains, or of a Maxfli winding up in a coal hopper. Not even one of Tiger Woods’ Nike One Tours, as badly as he played.

Many old ballparks over the years and even some modern ones, such as Safeco Field in Seattle, have been built near or alongside railroads. Staunch movie fans may recall a scene in “Brewster’s Millions” where a ballgame is interrupted by a train rolling through the outfield.

Many tales have been told about long home runs that have landed on a passing freight train and wound up who knows where. Few are substantiated.

But last month, a Chicago White Sox prospect named Courtney Hawkins hit a home run for the Double A Birmingham Barons against the Montgomery Biscuits at the exact time a freight train was speeding down the tracks beyond the left-field wall at Montgomery Riverwalk Stadium.

“Hit the train! Hit the train!”

Hawkins said he could hear people in the ballpark yelling … and then the ball did hit the train, right on top. There’s even video, although it’s hard to see where the ball strikes the train.

Supposedly when the ballpark opened, Montgomery mayor Bobby Bright offered $1,000 to any Biscuits player who smacked a home run off a train. No, Courtney Hawkins did not demand to be traded to Mongomery during a pitching change in the seventh inning.

“I’ve come to a lot of Biscuits games over the last seven or eight years and this is the first (ball) I’ve ever seen hit a train,” official scorer Brian Wilson — not that Brian Wilson — told MiLB.com.

“I wish I could tell you that it took a mammoth 600-foot shot to hit it, but really, it was just good timing.”

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski

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