Post Golf Classic Times at the Courtside Grille


               
                                     RRCollections

I stood there at 6 pm just chuckling while viewing one of the wildest sights of my life just coming into focus from the golf course. I had just gotten back  to the Bayou Club clubhouse area after going over to the post-celebration hot spot, the Courtside Grille, to help set-up some of the preparations for that nights Toby Hall & Friends Golf Classic awards presentation and silent auction event. And coming into focus was the wild pack of fastly approaching golf carts screaming at full speed towards our tiny segment of concrete at the final Check-In point.

It looked  more like a massive invasion of dark polo shirted special ops guys, minus the face paint, who had taken off just six hours earlier from this very spot. Between that moment there were chances to win a 2-year FREE lease on a brand new Range Rover with a Hole-in-One on the 16th hole, or a prize by winning the Closest To The Pin ball placement on Hole # 3.

And there was the extra bonus holes of beverage offerings and samples to mix with great conversation and tales of mishaps and great shots upon the golf course that afternoon.

But now just around the bend from the putting green, I could see a few golf carts playing an impromptu game of cart tag, but the mad adventure ended up with laughs and fond memories and no injuries or carts accidently finding the water or a sandtraps during a great day of golf.

I heard a great tale about how Murph, who most Rays fans know as one of the head security guys at Rays games trying to hit a ball off the edge of a sandtrap and ending up rolling head over heels into the sandtrap with the ball a few feet away.

Or of Classic golfer who had a set of furry golf club tops that looked exactly like the gopher from “Caddyshack” and also carried with him on the course an animated plastic Carl the Greenskeeper statue that played snippets and lines from the movie. And during this Scramble event, he was known to hit the red button and send a loud vocal message like “It in the hole!” just as his fellow pairing members were beginning their backswing or even putting.

I heard about a multitude of shots slicing or hooking with the impromptu wind gusts, but was glad to learn that there were no broken windows or extreme shots near pools or trees lining the golf course.

Instead I heard the echoes of plans and pleas to their fellow golfers’ to come out to the Courtside Grille for some 19th hole post-event fun and relive the great golf stories told by the other pairings in the tourney. I was standing at the epicenter of the conclusion of the physical part of the Toby Hall & Friend Golf Classic, and within thirty minutes, this same group of golfers would again converge and reconnect with a celebration of the day, and a fond rememberance of the windy drives, missed shots or unexpected birdie putts.
 

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There were pleads to some golfers to come out and have fun for a few hours, and others who eventually caved in and put on the red wristband and showed up to actually enjoy themselves laughing and conversing with the crowds at Courtside Grille. And for me it was another amazing chapter to this ever unfolding day.

I talked a bit with Matt Gieger, the former NBA star and one of the owners of the Courtside Grille, and he even remembered meeting me a long time ago when I was a Evening Independent Sports Correspondent doing High School Basketball games, including interviewing him  after a game at Countryside High School.

This golf classic provided me with an opportunity to reconnect with an old friend who I used to sit with in the Checker’s Bullpen Cafe for years shagging B P foul balls and actual Rays game balls. Keith and his girlfriend Rose actually introduced me to Tovy Hall for the first time. Keith was even featured as a caddy during a Rays commercial segment featuring Rocco Baldelli and the Happy Heckler a few years ago.

I learned that night that Rose’s son, Tommy will be working with Guy Gallagher in the Visitor’s Clubhouse at the Trop. during 2010, which should be an amazing opportunity for him to gain some valuable experience as he goes on to pursue a possible career in Sports Medicine.


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We reconnected while waiting for the Golf Classic to begin in the clubhouse, and he called another mutual friend of ours, Rays Bullpen Catcher Scott Cursi, who was now sporting some new chin hairs up to Courtside Grille for some of the post event fun. Cursi told me about his recent wedding and honeymoon down in the Carribean and how amazingly warm and a perfect setting to get away from baseball and the cold streak Florida was hit with back in early December 2009.

Got a chance to talk with Rays reliever Dan Wheeler about his 2-week vacation to Italy this off season and how it was an experience beyond words and the ultimate trip of his life. Got another opportunity to chat with ex-Rays fan favorite Jorge Cantu, who just got a nice raise from the Marlins about his excitement over his team’s chances and that he should be with the then Miami Marlins when they play their first game in that new retractable roof stadium and finally put an end to those dastardly rain delays that had become commonplace in past Marlins contests.

I talked a bit about the city of Seattle with new Mariner’s First Baseman Casey Kotchman who was traded to Seattle this off season and is really looking forward to playing in Safeco Field because of his past success playing in that stadium. We also chatted about his time in Boston and playing in historic Fenway Park before getting back to the wide variety of dining options in Seattle like the Metropolitan Grille, the great abundance of fresh seafood,or a simple late night breakfast adventure at Beth’s Cafe.

And with our talk, I began to miss these types of events and the great times associated with them that I  sometimes used to frown upon in my football past.

I had a few years of doing a lot of charity fundraising activities when I was playing football, but I was not an avid golfer beyond a little putt-putt, and that put a crimp in the  social fabric of spending times like these with some of my fellow players back in the late 80’s and 90’s.

But I still contributed to events and went to other events featuring billards or bowling tourneys. But now I really regret becoming distant and unattached over the last several years and missing the great times playing or even attending fundraising tournaments set-up by fellow players for their charities or foundations.

The night was filled with great moments like the announcement that boxer Winky Wright and Jorge Cantu’s pairings won First Place in their respective golf flights at the days event. With both groups hooping and hollering for a re-match between the two pairings for total supermacy. 

After the presentation, it was onto the fun business of an vocal auction for a pair of celebrity-signed Cornhole boards made just for the Golf Classic. I got to admit, I had never seen these types of boards up close before today, but I am going to figure out how to construct a pair of my own very soon.

If you have not seen them, they are a set of two wooden  rectangles with a circle cut out in them for a beanbag to fall through. I had seen them on television at Ohio State and Gator tailgating parties before games, but had never been brought into “the culture”  of the Cornboard before that night.


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 Toby Hall served as the Master of Ceremonies and Auctioneer, and he began first by thanking everyone involved in the Golf classic and gave out the plaques to the Golf Classic winners. Then began the bidding auction of a Cornhole board set. Each board piece had the identical signature of every celebrity participants of the golfing event in black Sharpie upon its flat surface. The bidding started at $ 250., but quickly rose higher and higher as the adrenaline began to build in the room.

There was one guy, who was a member of one of the pairings basically bidding against one athlete on the other side of the bar wanting that signed Cornhole treasure. Back and forth they both went until finally at that golden $ 500. threshold, the bidding quickly ended, and the excited winner bounced triumphantly up to claim his new prize.

The funniest part of it all is that his wife was more excited than he was to win it, and was screaming and jumping up and down kissing the board and him simultaniously as he paid for the item. I actually did bid on one of the silent auction items, a set of GH Mumm’s champagne glasses that would go great with my signed 2008 Rays Playoff signed champagne bottle. Sure I got something that will add to my  ever-expanding clutter of Rays stuff, but I also wanted to somehow give something back after spending such a great day with some great athletes.

The true winner of the night was the Miracle League of Florida who got the proceeds of this Golf Classic to help build a state-of-the-art field in Hillsborough County. I learned that night that there are currently 100 Miracle League fields completed in the United States, and another 100 are currently under construction and the league now serves over 80,000 chldren and young adults with disabilities a chance to enjoy the game of baseball.

And the Miracle League has a awesome overall goal of establishing 500 fields and expanding to help over 1.3 million  league members around the world enjoy  the thrill of baseball and some physical interaction with fellow players. I love their organization’s motto: “Every Child Derseves A Chance to Play Baseball”.


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As the night drew to a close, the same wild man who had been such a whirlwind of activity on the golf course had some how commandeered the use of a digital camera and was taking expose’ photos of the crowd of guests lining the bar area and the surrounding tables. With his vocal pleas of “Work it girl” or “Show me sassy” he brought the event back to an instant state of reality that we were celebrating a fantastic day and forming some great memories to tell again and again during the season.

But it will be moments like this being told in clubhouses all over MLB that will garner extra exposure and attention to the Toby Hall & Friends Golf Classic and hopefully lead to expanding the field in the coming years. The players going back to their respective teams talking about this event will bring it to gain more prestige in the coming years.

I want to thank Toby Hall and Tracey Ringstaff for letting me get close with some old friends and helping out during this great event. I truly forged some great memories that day/night. I  learned after I got home about Hall’s deal with Texas, but I know he would rather remember that night as a celebration for the Miracle League, and not about his Rangers signing.

Showing local support for the charities/foundations of our athletes is very important in this time of economic struggles. The usual revenue resources have begun to stretch extremely thin and the numbers and amounts of contributions some times trickle down slower and prolong the goals of these events. but events like this Golf Classic help re-establish a network of helping other organizations and leagues within our local communities. 

                              
                                   
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I ask only of you that the next time you come to a baseball game and a group of anxious kids in baseball jerseys asks for a single dollar donation, please give to them so they can enjoy playing this great game. So you might have to drink a medium instead of a large drink…It is no biggie, but to that group of kids, it could be the difference in going to an out-of-state baseball tournament or staying home and missing out on a lifetime adventure, or a character building moment…..

I guess the Toby Hall Golf Classic got me to remember that even a small amount of time volunteering, or even change from my car ashtray can build to fulfilling dreams and goals…. and that might be the best treasured moment from this event for me.

20 Comments

More good times for you! I have such fond memories of meeting Dan Wheeler’s family at the old Yankee Stadium in ’07. Glad to hear he’s doing well.

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

What a fanastic day you had!! Thanks for sharing.
http://catlovesthedodgers.mlblogs.com

sounds like an awesome night. you really do make me think about donating next time i am in the position. usually i just brush em off and feel that my money wont mean much but i remember having to bombard older people for donations and magazine subscriptions and candy bars to buy team basketball shoes or new baseball jerseys.

http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com

cool blog so far ur 2010 is going well the golf classic, being #10 in the top 100 list and ur blogs are comin along very well. great blog nice pics u get. great blog as always
tmas805 PS in of of ur paragraphs u said the miami marlins its acutally the flordia marlins. even the best bloggers have typos lol

Jane,
I actually mentioned you by name to Dan that night, and he has not read the book, but is going to get one and also let his parents know they are in your book.
He was glad that his parents made an impression on you, but they have his entire life.
Dan is doing great, and with your father-in-law up in the booth, it can’t hurt!

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

oh ok didnt know that but good blog as always
tmas805

Tmas,
It is not a typo.
When the team moved from Pro Player Stadium in Broward County, they will change their name to their local city, which will be Miami.
It was in the original Florida state documents, but might not have been decided by MLB yet.
But all sides point to them recognizing their new city and not the state by the time the new stadium is unvealed in 2011 or 2012.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Tmas,
There is always some sort of method to my madness.
But you will learn that with time.
I really think if you go back to the MLBlosphere page and hit the archives for January 2009, Mark Newman, who works and writes articles for MLB.com put out a series of blog entries to help inform and make us better in 2009. It was called JBlog school and if you can find the posts and read them, it will be a great experience…..trust me on this.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cat,
I did have a heck of a great time.
But the greatest moment truly was just talking with some of these guys and just connecting, or in some cases re-connecting.
Chatting with Trever Miller, who has a daughter who plays in the Miracle League and hearing about St. Louis. Or chatting with Todd Kalas who works for the Rays Television Network and FSN Florida about his offseason work with USF.
Nothing better than to get a few scoops, and also laugh with people you respect and admire.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Matt,
I learned along time ago from my parents that there are always people in need just beyond our eyesight. So at a young age I would do the walk-a-thons, put a donation bowl on the counter, or even volunteer some sweat equity time for charities.
Good example:At Christmas time, those Salvation Army people always get at least a dollar, but I give gladly.
And even though I have been unemployed for almost 2 years, by the grace of God and a few good breaks, I have a roof and food and a soft place to lay my head.
So I give to kids throwing car washes, selling cookies, or even just newspapers on the way into the baseball games.
I might not be bale to really spare it, but I do because I would like to think if I ever have a problem, people would be open to helping me….A bit naive of me, but I believe in the human spirit.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

A lot of hard work went into that. Nice post, enjoyable to read.
http://clevelandbaseball.mlblogs.com/

renagade heres a question who do u want to win today between the jets vs colts and the saints vs vikings????
tmas805. GO SAINTS

Tmas,
Since I played for the Colts…..That answer is easy for me.
Colts by 3.
In the second game it is a bit wilder.
Brett Farve won his only Superbowl in New Orleans and has always played well there.
Drew Brees said in an interview his first love is baseball, not football.
And since I am cooking up andouille sausage and red bean and rice right now…………Whodat Nation…Florida chapter will be pulling for the Saints to come to Miami.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cleveland,
Actually, I do not consider it hard work, but a great way to spend a day and evening in a social setting.
It was more than fun, and something I recommend to anyone to try at least once in your life.
I was just lucky enough to know enough players and people to make the day go better, and the night more enjoyable by learning about their off season.
When is the 2011 Toby Hall & Friends Golf Classic?

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

That sounded like a spectacular time! That was a very! enjoyable read.
http://thebrooklyntrolleyblogger.mlblogs.com/

Hey, Cliff, great entry as usual. The event sounds like it was a blast, even though it had some of the “wrong” people featured, such as Peyton’s jersey! ;) (A family friend writes for Colts.com, so we go back and forth on Manning and Brady, as I am also a Patriots fan. His mother visits here often. He also happens to be a Gator, so he and Peyton have had some interesting discussions!). How long ago did you play for the Colts?
I think we’re going to miss Kotchman. I don’t think it was our FO’s wisest move to trade him! But a lot of our moves this off-season have been questionable to us…
I never liked facing Dan Wheeler when we’d play your Rays. He seemed to have our playbook.
It makes all the sense in the world that the Marlins would be named “Miami Marlins”–I am not quite sure why that was not the case before.
The Miracle League’s concept sounds great! Great cause! Thanks for sharing, Cliff! Take care.

Brooklyn,
It was a lot of fun.
It is hard work going to fun events, but someone has to do it!
Thanks for the compliment. I try to make it entertaining to read my blogs……….most of the time.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Greg,
The reason the Manning jersey is on there is because I was a Colt!. Plus it had a bid of $ 1,800 ay one point that night did not miss my eyesight either.
I think it was great for Kotchman’s career to get out of Boston. No disrespect, but he was a defensive replacement and was not going to get 4 at bats a game in Boston.
In Seattle, he will play almost every day again.
Since the Marlins were basically a franchise stolen from the Tampa Bay area because of deeper pockets in South Florida, they could have been called anything and MLB would have approved it….within reason of course.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

No disrespect taken at all–I hope it works for Kotchman. We could have used him, though.
How long ago were you a Colt? For how long? As I mentioned, a family friend has been a Colts.com contributor (I think he’s more freelance now, though).
I like Manning a lot, frankly–just not when he’s playing! ;) I liked him first when he was with the Univ. of Tennessee–and, as I mentioned, my family friend is a Florida Gator! Hmmm!…
Thanks, Cliff!

I was there from 1984-1986 and played defensive back. But I did not use my middle name like I do on MLBlogs.com.
I came to the Colts out of Baylor University and was on the roster for the first game at the Hoosier Dome, the stadium’s original name.
I was good, but nothing special as a professional, but I did have fun hitting people even during a 4-12 season.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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