Do You Believe……..

 


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On Wednesday night, I could not get a restful sleep to save my life. Sleep and me lately have not been on the best of terms, but I make due with what is dealt to me. And so I decided to go out snooping around one of St. Petersburg’s baseball destinations that have been known to encounter unusual or “supernatural” experiences in the past. I am a firm believer that there just might be some great ghostly baseball games being played beyond a mortal man’s eyesight.

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.


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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.
 


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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 am not saying I caught a glimpse of the past walking by that night. I think something was caught, and wouldn’t you like to believe that the past does perform residual events, or might be inclined to show us a glance into realms we do not understand. I am a huge skeptic on so many levels about other things, but on this subject, I am a bit torn at both ends. I do not want to think about it as an apparition. I would rather go hog wild and romanticize it as a gift from baseball’s past to me that night. I want to believe, so I might have saw something.
 
 
And maybe that is where the real trouble lies for me in this event. Just like Kevin Costner in his great ” I Believe…” speech in “Bull Durham”, I want to believe in supernatural existence within the annuals of the Church of Baseball, and that they might have revealed themselves to me. I relish the thought of the past saying a quick “Howdie”, then heading for the hills. But then I also want to believe that I could someday do that same thing after I am gone.

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!

 
 

12 Comments

Great story, but none of the pics are showing up on my computer. If you have the time would you mind e-mailing them to me? My wife is interested in this sort of thing and I’d like her to check them out. mburrill94@detroittigers.net
Thanks,
Mike
http://burrilltalksbaseball.mlblogs.com

Mike,
I will definitely send them to you in the beginning of next week.
I am currently a bit…. well, mobile as we are about to hit the S Florida zoo for the game tomorrow night.
Best thing about the game being played 2 years in a row in your backyard……You have game options.
They are not the greatest pcitures, my little Fuji camera needs a telephoto lens, but you make due with what you got.
Would be interested to see if she also see a mis-coloration in the photo, or I am just hoping there is another phase to all of this.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cliff,
I just woke up, turn my computer and this is was a wonderful read to start my Saturday. You have the gift for the pen my friend. I see something in that picture because like you, I like to Believe. BTW, I love that speech “I Believe..” in “Bull Durham.”
.
Oh and Cliff, I also suffer from imsomnia but it eventually the lack of sleep catches up with me and then I sleep well. And then the cycle continues.
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com/
http://dodgersblueblog.com/

Emma, It is always my pleasure to leave comments on blogs. And when you are smiling in photos, I know you had a fantastic time.
I am not sure if it is a “gift”, but always been a bit of a composition guy. My High School and College teachers are still upset I have not written a book so they can put “red ink” marks in it ( j/k).
I truly am not trying to use it as an example of paranormal, but it doesn make the mind wander to thoughts like that…
I seriosuly will refuse to “go to the light” if I can wander this earth and watch baseball at all levels from T-ball to MLB.
Best thing si then I can get right up close and see the break of the curveballs, and maybe even not miss something because I was eating a hot dog.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cliff – It’s hard to tell on my monitor, but it does look like something is on the grass right there. Hmm.
A garbage can full of bats? What did you do? Are a few of them now in your collection? What a great job perk!
A few years ago, we were in St. Pete in August on vacation, and were walking around Al Lang. The gate near the left-field line was wide open, and no one was anywhere around. We walked in and looked at the empty field, and I couldn’t help but collect a little handful of warning-track dirt! I still have it in a small jar.
Enjoy the big game tomorrow! Wish I was down there in the warmth, instead of looking out my window at almost 2 feet of snow.
Sue
Rants, Raves, and Random Thoughts

Sue,
I really do not miss those snow moments… But this season is getting ridiculous. It seems the moent each section of the country rebounds it gets hammered again by rain or sleet or that rotten white stuff.
The Ski resorts love the extended good fortunes, but everyone else wishes for warmth to the point of quick melting and no re-icing.
I will be at a local bar with a few members of the Rays staff watching the Saints kick some of my old teams booty… I am actually taking the Saints +5 on the game.
It is such a shame that field is not being used.
Heck, the grounds crew might of even let you sit in the dugout for a picture if you let them……..Some of us Floridians can be down right nice………really.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I wish I could see what you see in that pic! I believe that all things are possible (well, most things), so I’m more than willing to spot a mysterious object and try to guess what it is. Maybe you could get the Ghostbusters on this one and solve the case?

- http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Jane,
Already on that course of action.
Not Ghostbusters, even though I have been told I look like Bill Murray… But a paranormal group and I are going to go to Huggins-Stengel in a few weeks and search it out……Excited about it.
I do not expect most people to see anything, but some do.
And that is the charm of it all………Some see potential, and some see nothing………That is what makes us great fans of the game.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Oh yeah Cliff, I forgot to ask if you salvaged any of the bats. Thanks Sue for the reminder!
.
I did have a wonderful time at the Caravan! Like I mentioned all those guys and gals that worked the event started very early by going to the Children’s hospital. You could see they were tired by day end. One of my friends took a pic of Kemp looking very tired. Anyway, the best event was when the players were our waiters three years ago.
.
Have a wonderful weekend Cliff and go Saints!!
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com/
http://dodgersblueblog.com

Spooooooooooooooky. A great number of the old baseballers were all heavy into alcohol and tobacco. We’re talkin’… LOTS. I say that ‘cuz my favorite part of this piece is the bit about the room smellin’ like cigars… STILL.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Emma,
Public appearances and autograph signings can drain someone after awhile.
But as long as the fans get some positives, then usually the team staffers think it has been a total success.
Yes, I did get a few salvagable bats.
The best one was a game used Fred McGriff and Jose Canseco bat, which I have gotten signed since then and are in my collection.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

jeff,
I kind of throw that under the guise of nothing to do like today.
Sure there were nightclubs and moviehouses back then, but no television after midnight in most locales, plus no Internet or video games.
Most nights might have been spent in the hotel lobby or room playing cards or out in the bars and restaurants…different time of life brought about different habits.
Still think the alcohol and the smoking is done today…….just a lot of it is under wraps or managed.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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