Begin Countdown

Baseball is coming.

Three days until Pitchers and Catchers report. Fifteen days until exhibition games begin. Fifty days until Opening Day.

But only 28 days before I’m in Florida myself. Four short weeks before I soak in the sun, splendor and hope of a new season.

While the games are nice (and are your only chance to see the major leaguers in action) the real fun for this fan is

Pedro hits vs Zach Duke at Pirate City

down the road at Pirate City. Get there between 10 and 11- maybe earlier if it looks like there will be afternoon rain. You’ll be immersed in baseball action, with four fields of hitting, pitching and fielding all withing sight of one another. Bring a media guide, or Tim’s book, because the players won’t have names on their jerseys. Also keep your eyes up and your ears open because you could be watching one field and get hit by a foul ball hit from another one.

The picture above was taken with my phone, standing right at the backstop. This is how close you get to the action at Pirate City. Closer than at the exhibition games, and way closer than a regular season game.

So if you’re a fan and have never been to Spring Training for your team, do yourself a big favor and book it. But while you’re there, don’t just see the big leaguers. Stop by the practice field while the minor leaguers are playing too. Its totally worth it.

 

Editor’s note: After some feedback I rewrote parts of this post for clarity.

Saturday at Bradenton

A beautiful afternoon

Sorry for the lack of posts. I went to Florida for a little beach time and managed to squeeze in a baseball game. Hard to beat that combination, even if it was raining and drizzling for much of the game.

This was my first time at McKechnie Field for something other than a spring training game. We arrived at the scheduled 6pm start time and easily bought two general admission seats for $6 each. As luck would have it there was a rainout the night before so they were playing a doubleheader. Consequently the game had started early and

Lineups from Game 1

was already in the third inning with the Marauders down 6-0. So much for seeing Tim Alderson pitch. I was looking forward to showing off what is usually a beautiful ballpark to the wonderful girlfriend, so I was surprised to see the field was not in its usual pristine condition. The outfield appeared to have been cut too low and scorched by the sun. The box seats in right field were also sun bleached and peeling. If that is the norm then they must replace those seats every year.The guys in the nearby bullpen were watching the game, but sprang into action right after the wonderful girlfriend wondered aloud, “Why aren’t they doing anything?” Probably a coincidence.

Robbie Grossman at bat

After the quick tour we settled into seats above the home dugout. I use the term settled loosely because it wasn’t long before rain chased us to the covered seats beneath the press box. I was able to get this shot of Robbie Grossman taking a pitch before we moved. He would end up walking.

The rest of that game I was distracted by lots of kids around me and one guy in front who couldn’t figure out which part of his poncho to stick his head through.  Bradenton lost 10-5.

Next best thing to free

There was no proper 7th-inning stretch because minor league double headers are only seven innings long and they had an on-field presentation for AAU teams that were competing in a tournament at Pirate City. Special Bonus: From the end of game one until the first pitch of game two, small beers were only $1. A 75% savings for those of you scoring at home.

Despite the rain, neither game was ever delayed.

When game two started the Marauders came out in their regular home uniforms instead of the batting practice jerseys they wore for the first game. I think the look is pretty sharp, especially the yellow caps. As you can tell we had upgraded our seats to directly behind home at this point.

A few notes I made on twitter during game 2:

Calvin Anderson is friggin’ huge. (He is. Just towers over people.)

Quincy Latimore with the RBI double. Stole 3rd on the next pitch & scored when the throw went into LF. Tied 2-2 in the 3rd.

That was the first positive thing I’d seen [Latimore] do. In the first game he had a bad play on a ball up the middle & overthrew a cutoff man.

Dunedin’s got a good defensive shortstop. Seen 3 strong plays. (Looked him up later: 2009 4th round pick Ryan Goins)

Not knowing about the double header we had made plans for later on and decided to leave early. Bradenton was down 3-2 when we left and would go on to lose 4-3. Still, a night spent hanging out at the ballpark is one of the most fun things you can do.

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