My Solutions for the Rays “Waterlogged Balls” Situation
Sometimes I just think that the Tampa Bay management just makes a deal with itself not to whine more than once a month. Seriously here folks, two months ago it was about attendance has to increase to even be able to afford a winning team. Next it was the lack of Season Tickets, which numbers near 10,000 to increase at least 50 percent to provide financial stability for the team. But the latest one might be the best one of them all. I know that the new move south about 90 minutes might be difficult for some of the players, but the wild part is that now the baseballs are the ones in danger.
It seems that a lack of planning or maybe the addition of some better hitters has brought to light the problem of baseballs hitting the lakes behind the 5 practice fields at Charlotte Sports Park. What is amazing is that when they were setting up the drawings to lay out this complex, or event to upgrade certain fields and fence locations, the glint of the water and the parking lots did not pop into their minds as hazards. This is not the first time the team has had to endure a parking lot situation. At the old complex they had one field on the main4-field setting in the southeast corner who right-center and right field used to send balls into the players parking lot.
You would see the first 25 or so spaces empty when you first got to the complex and reporters and minor league players would take those spots not knowing the left handed batters would be seeking their cars windshields and looking to produce tell tale marks on hoods and roof tops. The Rays did find a way to combat that element by making mostly the left handed hitters’ play in scrimmages on one of the other 3 diamonds to take away the threat of car harm and rising insurance rates. Even at Progress Energy Field, the old Spring Training game site, you had a left field and right field shopping mall of cars to choose from if you hit it long and deep.
I remember going out to Progress Energy before an away game in Sarasota two years ago and watching the Batting Practice balls go out the left field fence and smash into about 5 cars windshields before the construction workers putting the upgrades on the neighboring Mahaffey Theatre finally got wise and moved their cars further from the onslaught of baseballs. They had already gotten about 7 cars either in the windshield or on their body parts and I scampered around and collected over 24 balls that day, just over the left field wall. But down the old right field line, players could hit paying customers cars parked along 1st Street South along the street sides. So what is so unusual about the Port Charlotte situation?
Well, if a baseball gets waterlogged, it is pretty much garbage for some time, or for ever depending on the total amount of time it takes a swim in the water. Maybe this Spring Training the Rays might have to suck it up and expect the added expenses, but in 2010 there might be some unique changes in the structures. Maybe they can develop a screen system like the City of Clearwater did along McMullen-Booth Road to combat balls going out of the softball fields and ending up in the windshields of cars going 45 mph down the road.
Or maybe you can have the guys go nuts all day long shagging balls and give them each a player-signed ball after the day to show your thanks for a job well done. I hate to say it, but I would drive down there every day to get a bit closer to fulfilling that fantasy of playing baseball instead of football. These are only a few of the ideas that pop into my little mind daily that could help the Tampa Bay Rays in some way. Maybe that is one of the reason I write my blog, to get this stuff out of my brain before it explodes, or maybe I write it because I want this team to be here for as long as I live, and that might be a long time.
So, Rays Front Office, the choice is yours. Either you think about one of those ideas I gave you, or you have to suck it up and pay out the money for new balls daily. I know this complex is not Raymond J Namoli complex, but it has a beauty and a confined space that just says baseball. This is the infant stage of the new complex, problem will arise daily and be dealt with, but if the fact that baseballs are flying into the lakes or the parking lot might cause further financial damage to you, then think about a few of these solutions. I can be there at 9 :30 every day if you need me until April, then I have reservations to shag balls daily in the right field stands at the Trop.
Photo Credits for Today’s blog: www.scubadiving.com, www.texnet.com, falkensmaize and missannthrope723 @ Flickr.com