A Beautiful Day for Spring Baseball

 
 
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Got to admit it here, I love it when the Tampa Bay Rays come north and play the Philadelphia Phillies during Spring Training. It is basically a Rays “homecoming” to their fans who do not have the time or resources to travel the 80 miles down to Port Charlotte, Florida for their Grapefruit League schedule. And making it a double pleasure is that the game is played at BrightHouse Field, which has to be one of the most beautiful baseball stadiums in Pinellas County.

So here we go as I pop on a few photos today on my journey northbound to the chilly tundra that is Clearwater, Florida. Seriously, when the game started on Sunday at 1 pm, it was 65 degrees, by the time the game was wrapped up with the Rays shutting down the Phillies 5-3 for their third victory of the Spring, it was down to 61 degrees. Not complaining, just found it kind of weird during such a sunny day with limited wind hitting you in the stands. But then again as I always say….If you do not like the weather in Florida, wait 15 minutes, it will change.

 
 
 
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Always wanted to be a fly-on-the-wall during a Rays Press Conference with Rays Manager Joe Maddon. Here we see the local media gurus along with Rays Vice President of Communications Rick Vaughn doing their daily pre-game meet and greet to discuss some of the days events, and even maybe get news on the expected signing of Free Agent Hank Blalock to join the Rays on a minor league contract. I want to just love to hear some of the news firsthand without the dissection of the Rays quotes and news for once. You know I could find a tidbit or two in just a 30 second voice blurp.
 
 
Also would love to hear what Maddon thinks about the possibility of Joe Dillon making this season’s 25-man roster. I find it kind of refreshing that Dillon has made it clear to the Rays and anyone that will listen that he plans to do whatever is necessary to show he has the abilities and the versatility to play almost anywhere for the team in 2010. Most people do not know this, but Dillon was actually Maddon choice as an emergency catcher if something would have happened in a game with his two normal catchers.
 
 
 
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That might be another reason Dillon has been catching more this season to make his stock rise above just being a utility player mostly playing in the infield. And during Batting Practice today, I saw him moving all around the infield from taking balls at third base, to manning the first base bag for a bit. Dillon did get in the game yesterday coming in for Elliot Johnson and playing third base, but went 0-2 in the game. Got to tell you, I always get a bit jealous of those corporate slugs across from me sitting in the Hooters VIP Diamond Dugout section. Not only do they get waitresses in skimpy Hooter attire, but they have almost instant access to the bench along with some great chicken wings and blue cheese.


 
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Got to befriend someone some day and see if I should be so jealous of this section….I think I would be no matter what. But I also find it kind of wild that in Bright House Field, the Phillies have two Hooters ball girls down the foul lines who sit in these nice canvas chairs with gloves in hand flirting with the fans and just looking pretty. Sure I have seen them get out of their chairs a few times, but I forget they are not there for their baseball skills but to look cute and smile for the fans. Always wondered why the Phillies did not bring down two of their regular season Philly Ballgirls who actually play softball for local leagues or college in the Philly area.

 

 
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Always love how the Rays players treat their younger fans. You do not get the total jest of it in this photo, but Elliot Johnson was actually throwing the ball with the young baseball player in red for about three minutes before the kid had to go back into the infield and stand for the National Anthem. You know it is moments like these that makes a child a baseball fan for life. And what a story he will have when he goes back to school on Monday telling all of his friends he threw a baseball with a Major League Baseball player… on the field before a game….priceless moment.

  
 
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Always love it when the United States Army’s Golden Knights parachute team does a pre-game event like this in BrightHouse Field. I have now seen it a few times and it is always a great spectacle and an extremely emotional sight seeing the billowing red smoke and the final recognition of our flag attached to his parachute. I find it really interesting to see this Sunday prior to the Oscars last night that saw the simply amazing film “The Hurt Locker” take the Best Film honors. I have to say I have seen the film and loved it for its realism and attention to military detail.

 
 
 
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What was amazing in this game on Sunday is we saw everyone of the Rays players fighting for a roster spot play in front of some of their hometown fans who came out and helped set a attendance record for a Spring Training game held at Bright House Field. 10,474 fans filled every nook and cranny of the stadium on Sunday. It was definitely standing room only out in the grassy berm areas, and the concession stands did look like the usual rush during a Rays/Yankees or Rays/Red Sox series. Even saw one of the Trop’s beer guys Mark working in the stands yesterday and it made the game feel more like a home game.

 
 
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Had a funny thing happen to me yesterday while I was sitting in the 7th row down in Section 104. Had an older gentleman tell us to either give him play-by-play of the game or shut up. My new found friends from Philly were a bit perplexed, but I reminded them that we do live in a retirement region here in Florida, and some people like to concentrate on the baseball game. I did not want to upstage the guy and tell him I would be more than willing to do audio for him of the game. The few fans around us were a bit upset, but for me, it was just business as usual in Florida. But I do understand the guy’s request.

We were talking about Philly places I knew and the Winter they just went through up there, and maybe this guy was not into our discussions. One of the Philly guys actually remarked that if we were in a movie theatre, it was not a problem to stop talking, but we were at a baseball game. I just laughed it all off and said it was fine, I could get some more photos and maybe get some much needed sun on my farmer-tanned bones. Funny it really got a few people around me upset, but I made sure they knew if it was Tropicana Field I might have kept talking, but since I was in someone else’s stadium, I respected the guy wearing his green Phillies cap.

 
 
 
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One thing I did notice was that Rays First Base Coach George Hendricks seemed a bit unprepared for this game today. I tried to ask someone in the Rays clubhouse if George’s usual number 25 jersey might not have made the trip north, but they were really closed-lipped about it. It was kind of funny to see him wearing that “95” jersey, which usually a sure sign of a Rays minor leaguer getting a chance with the big club. Notice Hendrick’s batting helmet shows his “usual” jersey number 25 on it 

 
I tried to get George’s attention a few times during the middle of the innings to see if maybe the 25 jersey was still hanging up in the Coach’s area at the Rays Spring complex, but never got an answer back from him. Another wild moment was when Heath Phillips started the eighth inning and was relieved by Heath Rollins. I made a few people around me chuckle a bit when the first Rays pitcher who was about 250 pounds left the mound and I called the new pitcher “Heath” too. It was a unique situation and one you might not see during the regular season, but might be more commonplace during Spring Training.
 
 
 
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I also asked a few of the photographers about these wild looking silver camera I saw in at least three different spots around BrightHouse Field on Sunday. I was advised that they were permanent Major League Baseball Network cameras that got primary shots from the First Base, Third Base and Centerfield angles during Spring Training games. I had not even noticed them before and found it quite interesting they did not employ three different cameramen for these regions during telecasts earlier in the Spring.

 
Guess you learn something new every day at the ballpark during the Spring. I am going to be sure to also try and check out the Home and Visitor’s dugout at Tropicana Field to see if these might also be put into a permanent position around our home ballpark for game situations during the regular season. I know from walking around Charlotte Sports Park that the Rays do not have this capability yet, but who knows what might happen in the future.

 
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But it was a great simply beautiful day out in the sun in Florida on Sunday.  And the day was even made more special after Rays Radio man Rich Herrera yelled out “Renegade” from his silver car as he sped away from  a side street onto Old Coachman Road on his way home from the ballgame. Plenty of excited Rays fans and Phillies fans enjoying one of the best weather days this Spring. Congrats to the Phillies again for setting a new single game attendance record, and hopefully we can make another run at that record on Tuesday, March 23rd when the Rays come back to this amazing ballpark and I will sit instead out in the berm region to give a different prospective to this great ballpark.

 

12 Comments

I can’t believe that guy told you to be quiet! LOL. It was a baseball game, not a movie theater, as you point out, so what did he expect? You were a good sport not to challenge him and instead just enjoy the day. Looking forward to visiting BrightHouse Field myself next week!

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Jane,
I had a few people tell me after he left ( in the ninth inning) of a 10 inning game that I should of stood up for myself, but I just do not need the Gray Panthers boycotting my blog. Seriously, it was not that big a deal to me.
Hope you see those Orwellian spycams near the team’s dugouts when you hit George Steinbrenner Field.
I plan on looking for them the next time I hit a game for the Tampa Yankees when they play the Rays.
BTW, the weather is suppose to be great next week.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

What does that guy want you to be quiet about?

You should have told him politely to shut the heck up.

Tell him he should have payed for different seats if he didn’t want any noise.

Brighthouse Field seems beautiful. Those were some awesome pictures by the way!

Baseball is underway for good…. and I hope it is here to stay for awhile.

The Rays are my wildcard pick.

They have the offense necessary but the pitching is my only question.

They need to be healthy, and they need their bullpen to really contribute this year. I think if all this is there, a productive season will blossom.

Ted

http://tribewithted.mlblogs.com/archives/2010/03/belittling-brantley.html#_login

The Hooter section? Really? Why am I not a Rays fan again? Maybe I oughtta sign up!
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Just a few more days till I AM THERE! Please tell me it will be warmer this weekend. Speaking of the Hooter girls, the last time we were at ST (2007), one of them picked up a foul ball to toss into the stands, and she could barely get it a few rows in! This prompted me to remark that she did indeed throw “like a girl”, to which my husband replied that she wasn’t there for her throwing ability but her “other talents”. The guy sitting in front of us found this exchange rather amusing.
How long a drive is it from St. Pete (where we are staying) to Port Charlotte? We are thinking about driving down Friday to catch the Phillies at the Rays. About 2 hours? Or less?
Sue
Rants, Raves, and Random Thoughts

Ted,
We were actually talking about the yearly trips and travels of Edwin Jackson and about Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac’s competition this Spring.
The people I was talking to were visibly upset, I laughed it off and just waited until the middle of the innings from that point.
Then if he would of said a word I might have been escorted out by the end of that conversation.
Pitching, well at least the starters has been a pretty good constant for the team the last three years. We had two take a few weeks in thew beginning of 2008, but since then…..(knock on wood) no Rays starter has been popped on the DL.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jeff,
I used to eat in the orginal Hooters shack and never thought it would become the International sensation it has become. But then again, if you mix cute women , cold beer and chicken wings….it is a leathal combination.
Of course you can join, just no crying about Erin Andrews on Dancing With the Stars”.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Sue,
I remember my daughter aksed for her 10th birthday party to be at Hooters because her aunt worked there. It was a great party and my daughter did shock me with her “I want to be a Hooters Girl” rant during the party.
Since then she has become 21, and his a Hooters girl at the Palm Harbor store.
Thank goodness she looks like her mom.
The weather is beginning to turn a bit and should be great when you get down here.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Wow, sounds like you had a great time out there! Lots of interesting stories and discoveries. Great pictures too!
http://kaybee.mlblogs.com

Kaybee,
If there is a bat and a ball involved, then I will always find fun and excitement.
Heck if I ever moved to Europe might become a cricket fan only because it is the closest game to baseball played somewhere else in this big old globe.
But as long as I have MLB.TV, I will be smiling ear-to-ear when not sitting in Tropicana Field.
Matter of fact, only missed 4 games in two years now, and three of those I was in the hospital with a brown spider bite.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I was there Sunday also… The Rays look great! Very similar to 2008 but better!!!
GO RAYS!!!!!

CCostello,
It was a bit of a madhouse there on Sunday, but that is a good thing.
It shows the support not only for the Phillies, but the Rays on their home turf of Pinellas County.
The Rays are starting out this Spring actually a bit better than the 2008 squad, but it is too early to signal for Playoff tickets yet.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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