Do You Believe……..
So being in a restless adventurous mood, I decided to hit Progress Energy Park, which was built right on top of the old St. Petersburg Athletic Park, which was the Home field for the Boston/St. Louis Browns, and then the New York Yankees up until that structure was razed and the new concrete stadium rose in 1947.
I wanted to head towards this park because in my old Pepsi-Cola position as the Special Events Coordinator, one of my greatest job activities was supplying the stadium with products and having the run of the stadium before, during and sometimes after Spring Training. I spent some odd moments going underneath and explore the nooks and crannies of this stadium, and I did find a few treasure troves that I was allowed to take from the stadium.
Nothing of significant historic value per se, mostly old newspapers dating to the early 1950’s and I even found a small room that smelled of old Cuban cigars that might have been where Miller Higgins went to have a pre-game, or a post-game cigar before heading out of the ballpark.I also could smell the signs of decay from the inner bones of this stadium, but I still marveled at what it must have been like to wander within its hallways during the Days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, who both stayed just a few blocks away in the Ponce De Leon Hotel penthouse suites when they came down every Spring. I could almost visualize Stan Musial or some of the other St. Louis Cardinals warming up under the stands ready to play in the revised stadium after 1947.
I really was not expecting anything of value in tonight’s venture, or anything really, just wanted to kill a few hours before finally falling asleep exhausted, and maybe dreaming of those past baseball days in this park.Now I am a huge fan of believing that this life is just a beginning, and that there are some things beyond our control that might have us wandering in this realm after we are gone from this world. I think that basis to my psyche developed when I hit a electrical cable with a J-hook while hooking up a car to pull it out of a sandbank when I was about 8-years old helping my Dad pull cars out of Sunset Beach during bad weather.
So that gives me a realistic basis for wanting to believe shows like “Ghost Hunters” and “Ghost Adventures” could give us a sample tidbit of what life might be like for us beyond breathing. Because believe me, if I have my choice, I am haunting my Season Ticket seat for a long, long time (lol).
It was still before 5:30-ish and extremely dark still, so I decided to head to the St. Petersburg Pier and look out at the water and upon the beautifully-lit Vinoy Hotel, which itself holds a fantastic paranormal history between its walls. But it was a bit too windy to even get a great night shot of the Vinoy or nice landscape photo of the bright city lights and I decided to cruise down Beach Drive towards the stadium. It still gets me that I have to call this field Progress Energy Park. The “official” name is Progress Energy Park at Al Lang Field, but that looks really snobbish on a brochure for the City of St. Petersburg.
The last Rays Spring Training game in this stadium ever was held on March 28th,2008 with Matt Garza on the mound against the Cincinnati Reds. The Rays lost that last home game in this grand stadium 6-3, even though Garza threw 5 innings without giving up an earned run, but the sell-out crowd could not boost the Rays to a win. It seems like just yesterday I went under the stands and found 2 garbage cans full of broken bats and game-used bats with mostly Rays players’ names on them. And here I was walking around the building again with the fine lights of the morning beginning to pop through the cloud cover.
But I was not outfitted like a Ghost investigator, my only tool was my camera and a small digital recorder, but I was here more for remembering than for a full-on balls-to-the-wall type of venture. In essence, I was trying to kill a few hours of the night without disturbing my neighborhood with 5 am basketball, or even a melody of 1980’s hits from I-Tunes Radio. I took about 30 photos from all different angles and locations while wandering around the stadium.
I wandered around the rectangular building in front of the ballpark that used to be the home of Minor League Baseball before they bolted from St. Petersburg for another locale. And took a few minutes to ponder that I would have been standing in Rightfield of the new Rays sail-inspired ballpark if the POWW committee and the grey Panthers had not put the kibosh on the whole deal and sent the Rays and the City scrambling for alternatives (ABC Coalition).
So I popped the camera through the locked double gates near the Leftfield Berm area, plus the small singular gated entry that had for years been the threshold for game day Umpires and Visiting team members to used to get quick access to the field without going into the clubhouse. I then took a long stroll beyond the high green outfield walls around the outside of the stadium back near the sheds that housed the old Batting Cages and small infield drill areas and found three baseball sitting in the damp grass.
I finally came out on 1st Street North and headed North to end up at the old Knot-hole Gang fencing area just beyond the Rightfield Berm with a clear visual all the way to Home Plate and a nice sweeping viewpoint of the entire playing surface. I took 10 quick pictures at this spot and really was enjoying just watching the sun start to peak out over Tampa Bay and provide a great backlight to the empty stadium. There were Batting Cages set up, but no cars anywhere around the stadium so it had an eerie feel to it all.
At that time, I really did not know how eerie it really was……..until I got back home and pulled the pictures through my Windows Photo Gallery to see if I had any keeper photos, or if they were all just trash. Well, in one particular photo, I kept coming back to it and looking, then going forward to the next picture taken maybe a few seconds before it, and there was something odd in that first picture that kept calling me back to it. I marveled that I might have caught something, but it was a bit hazy. I made a quick mental remembrance that there was no odd colors draped around the baseball diamond to promote a sort of non-green background in this photo.
Now I am not saying it is anything, because that is up to total individual interpretation, and someone could have snuck into this dark stadium at night, and walked towards the Home Dugout. I have had a few people check out the photo and have gotten mixed reviews back, but people say that seeing something like this on film is like either of us standing in the Ringling Museum viewing an art masterpiece.
Each person sees a different analogy or interpretation as an authentic piece of art, or someone paint splattered in different directions by a drunk man. But that is also what I love about opinions, every one has one.
I want to believe that I can still enjoy the game from the other side, and maybe even mis-direct a few balls down the foul lines, or tip a ball out of a glove, or over a wall in the future. Heck thinking about it now, that might be the only real chance I will ever get to touch a ball in the field of play during an actual game………And believe me, I am dying to do that…Big Time!