Friday, April 02, 2010

Sights of spring (training) '10

One of the greatest things about being a baseball fan living in Florida is spring training. While recently, a lot of teams have headed west to Arizona and Nevada, many teams continue to play in the Grapefruit League here in Florida. I didn't get to any games last year but did squeeze in one visit this year, watching the Florida Marlins take on my beloved Tampa Bay Rays down in Port Charlotte. Here are some pictures...

This is Charlotte County Stadium, spring home of the Rays. The last time I was here, about 20 years ago, it was almost brand new and the home of the Texas Rangers and their Florida State League affiliate, the Charlotte Rangers. Oddly enough, at about the same time the major league teams were building quirky, unique and distinctive ballparks (think Oriole Park at Camden Yards), the ballparks that were being built for spring training and minor league ball were generic and devoid of personality. This one was virtually indistinguishable from parks that were built around the same time in Plant City and Sarasota. The Rangers are long gone and the Rays, and their Florida State League affiliate, the Stone Crabs, have done a great job of changing that and injecting some much-needed pizazz, including a boardwalk that circles the outfield, similar to the one where the Phillies play in Clearwater.

Get your (Stone) Crabs (merchandise) here!

Here's a Marlins fan who came up for the game. I remember when Wayne Huizenga owned both the Marlins and the NFL's Miami Dolphins but was there a time when their uniforms and merchandise were identical?

Everybody loves Todd Kalas. Here he is signing my friend R's ball. R has lived in Florida her whole life but has never really done the spring training experience, a big part of which is a ball with all kinds of signatures, so this is her first. So far, besides, Kalas, she has Don Zimmer and '09 National League rookie of the year Chris Coughlan among others. Not bad.

Buncha hosers.

For Rays fans, it's a good day when you have Matt Garza bringin' heat...
(PS: Matt has a celebrity lookalike)
..and Ben "Zorilla" Zobrist (my favorite player) swingin' the lumber.

Zorilla looking to take off.
After about the 4th inning of a spring training game, the starters are taken out and replaced by guys wearing numbers in the 60s and 70s who probably won't make the big league team. At that point, one's attention wanders to activities taking place in the stands...

Such as guys dressed as fruit...

Somebody rockin' the mullet...

And then there's That Guy.

During this game, Marlins all star shortstop Hanley Ramirez lost the grip on his bat and almost killed me with it. It landed one row right in front of me. Here it is, in the hands of the guy who "caught" it.

At every game, there's always some bozo you'd like to see hit in the head with a hot dog thrown by somebody in the crowd. Well, I would. Just to see a slippery, rubbery tube of potted meat product sailing through the air and landing with a nice, moist *SLAP!* right above the ear of some boob who has it comin'. It wouldn't hurt him, I don't mean actual physical harm, it would just embarrass him, piss him off and make everybody else laugh. Well, I would. I'm talking about some guy in a wife beater with moused up hair, a couple of ear rings, pants half way down his ass, trying to start a "Let's Go Marlins" chant while the Rays are at bat, behind by three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Yeah, him.

Several different degrees of readiness on display in right field.

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