Reserve Team Sub
Apr 27, 2010, 1:08 AM
It's baseball time!
Re: [The Moose] Where are you going - where did you go? NON FOOTBALL!!!
Tampa Yankees 4-0 Lakeland Flying Tigers
Thursday 8 April
Florida State League (High A)
Just across the road from the imposing Tampa Bay American football stadium is George Steinbrenner Field, the NY Yankees' spring training base and home to the Florida State League Tampa Yankees.
Like almost all ballparks in this league, the facility is large (too large to be honest, think Newcastle Blue Star), modern and comfortable, with easy parking. However, the games are poorly attended and there couldn't have been more than 250 in the park. The announced attendances in minor league baseball are straight out of the Hellenic League handbook, often 2 or 3 times higher than the numbers actually present. Presumably, season tickets are sold relatively cheaply and the quoted figures include non-attendees.
Admission was only 6 dollars, parking was free, promotional magnetic schedules were given away free and we had great seats, right behind the home dugout. A glossy 72 page programme (issued twice a year) was on sale for a dollar or 2, with a separate photocopied roster/lineup available free.
Tampa Bay Rays 9-3 New York Yankees
Friday 9 April
A welcome chance to see the Major League Yankees for the first time and, even better, cheer them to defeat.
The Rays play at an indoor stadium in St Petersburg. It hosts other events and I'm pretty sure it was designed with the intention of attracting Major League baseball to Tampa Bay, so it succeeded, but an indoor multi-purpose park is an indoor multi-purpose park and they are looking to build an outdoor baseball-only facility in the near future.
The stadium design was interesting, with the roof resembling a circus tent that is cleverly supported from the sidewalls and which rises to its highest point behind home plate. And with the Yankees in town, there was good-natured banter between the fans and a surprisingly decent variety of concession stands open for the evening in the spacious concourse.
Admission was 20 dollars for a top tier seat directly behind home plate, which I thought was excellent value. Most Americans prefer to watch from the lowest tier, so at most Major League parks it's usually possible to pick up seats that IMO offer great views but which cost less than half the price. Incredibly, the programme suggests that you could get tickets for this section for only 8 dollars for games against less attractive opposition. A free 64 page programme (covering 15 home games over a 5 week period) was readily available, though it took me a while to hunt out the free photocopied roster sheet (which is usually the only game-specific content available).
Official and unofficial parking seemed plentiful (about 20 dollars I think) although I did later read about a scam whereby guys cover parking restriction signs, take your money, disappear, and then the car owners return after the game to find their car has been towed away. We didn't stay for the post-game fireworks (in an indoor stadium!) and the first 10,000 fans received a free Rays t-shirt courtesy of the St Petersburg Times - unfortunately we didn't arrive early enough as we were held up in traffic in downtown Tampa, although the wife did get a free bag in another giveaway outside the park.
Quite a few fans around us turned up with cowbells - 10,000 of these had been given away by fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A the previous night!
Brevard County Manatees 2-3 Lakeland Flying Tigers
Tuesday 13 April
Florida State League (High A)
After a day at Kennedy Space Centre, we headed south to the planned community (newtown to me and you) of Viera. The Manatees have been around for 15 years and I got the impression that the ballpark must have been one of the drivers for economic development in the area - you sometimes find this in the minor leagues.
It's a pleasant park, with the 8,000 capacity hardly tested as attendances seem to have dropped noticeably since the early years of the park - another feature of the minors. Admission was 7 dollars, with Kraft offering a 2-for-1 ticket promotion if you turned up with a Kraft Singles wrapper. I must admit, I had assumed something entirely different when I read it was Kraft Singles night!
Parking was free, although I went in the wrong entrance and ended up parking on a grassy area next to a practice field. And there was another free programme (36 pages, issued monthly), with the programme girl also distributing free photocopied rosters. The front cover contained an advert for a local bar that sells 500 beers, with 40 on tap!
At all baseball games, balls hit into the stands can be retained by spectators and my daughter decided she wanted one. After 4 innings with no foul balls even remotely near us I announced that we should move towards first base. We hadn't even sat down in our new seats when a foul ball was coming towards us at roughly 100 mph. I heard a gasp of concern from elsewhere in the park as I attempted to catch it (so close!), but my daughter quickly picked up my fumbled effort from the floor while I pretended that my hands weren't really sore when stadium staff checked on my wellbeing. I've yet to see anyone seriously injured by a stray ball - somewhat surprising when you consider the speed at which they come towards you and a spectator preference for holding a beer in one hand, peanuts in the other and balancing nachos on your lap.
Daytona Cubs 9-6 Tampa Yankees
Thursday 22 April
Florida State League (High A)
And finally, my favourite ballpark of this trip. Daytona are the FSL's best-supported team and also play in what must be the most traditional ballpark in the league.
Jackie Robinson Ballpark is located in downtown Daytona, very close to the beach and is named after the player who, if I recall, was the first black player in the 'modern' Major Leagues back in the 1940s when he turned out for the Brooklyn Dodgers. With so many bland spring training facilities available in Florida it's something of a surprise that any team would want to play in a park that's a bit ramshackle, so full credit to the Chicago Cubs for sticking with it.
There's an old wooden grandstand between home plate and first base - most of the oldies sat here. The seats are comfortable but you have to view the game through the rope netting that protects fans from foul balls. Between home and third base was a larger section of less comfortable bleecher-type seating that was home to a younger audience. With the changing rooms beyond third base, a picnic area and open-air bar beyond first base, and palm trees on the other side of the outfield, the park offers an eclectic mix of styles and is all the better for it. The outfield was also home to my favourite advertising hoarding - Ponce Inlet Lighthouse.
Admission was 7 dollars, parking was in less supply than at other parks but was free and we had no trouble finding a spot, there was another free programme (April edition - 44 pages, with a free photocopied roster available), and the concession stands had a pretty good variety of food. Best of all, this evening's promotion was Thirsty Thursday, with beer available at 1 dollar (12 oz) and 3 dollars (32 oz) throughout the evening - there was a decent choice as well, with maybe 20 beers on tap. I'm not sure if it was due to the promotion, but the actual attendance was probably closer to the announced figure and there was certainly a more vociferous atmosphere at this game. At the previous evening's game there was a tribute to a fan named Joe who was attending his 1000th game in a row - I trust he celebrated game 1001 with a few beers.
(This post was edited by Mark on Apr 27, 2010, 1:14 AM)