Results tagged ‘ BrightHouse Field ’

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.

 

Minor League Problems in 2009?

 

Minor League
baseball has always been the bread and butter of the major leagues. They help
support and replenish the league with players and coaches, and even bring about
change in promotions and in-game entertainment. So why is it in 2009, we might
see a huge reduction in minor league activities at our local ballparks? Is the
culprit the economy that is forcing the major league big clubs to scale back a
down flow of capital, or is it a sign of the time that when the economy is
slacking, so will the attendance at the lower levels of
baseball.

If you take a
brisk walk from the lavish suites of the Las Vegas epicenter of baseball
centered at the famed Bellagio hotel, where major league baseball executives and
agents  haggle and discuss multimillion-dollar contracts for players. You will
find another much more nervous group of baseball officials and job seekers
gathered around just looking for answers and promises for the upcoming 2009
minor league seasons.


 

At the Winter Meetings edition of the  minor league job fair and trade
show, the topic on many minds is the floundering and unstable economy, which
will be  expected to have a far more economical effect on baseball’s lower
levels than on the major leagues. Many minor league teams are searching for
creative ways to save  revenue and venue money but keep loyal fan bases’
heading out to their ballparks, and  current baseball experienced job seekers
are finding few openings. Some of the cost-saving measures will affect  the fans
in the long run, and others will reach out into the confines of the field.


Take for example, the St. Louis Cardinals’ entire minor league system,
where many of the teams’  players will be issued and will wear last year’s
uniforms. Buddy Bates, the  Cardinals minor league equipment  manager, said it
was difficult to find items to cut on the field because the teams still needed
catcher’s equipment, helmets and baseballs. But, he said, reusing uniforms was
something his organization could get away with. Uniform repairs cost will soar
in 2009, and with that fact, the teams’  seamstress  might be kept busier in
2009 repairing pants  than in stitching on players names on their jerseys.
Patches might be  the order of the day on pants and knee areas for the entire
minor league system.


 

 



Many other  minor league organizations have come to the same conclusion,
said Mike Gentz, the team uniforms promotion manager for Wilson Sporting Goods.
But will the lean times and reduced money flowing downhill from the Parent clubs
be enough to evoke cost saving measure early in the season. Or will the club
just start the season on a cost-conscious budget and  take a ‘wait and see’
attitude into the early stages of the upcoming seasons. And why is the uniforms
being the first thing cut in a time of crisis?

Most teams have upgraded or even done huge replacements on their uniforms
yearly, but this year  that number might be a bit scaled back until the true
number begin to hit the turnstiles of the stadiums.  You can bet at the major
league level, the cost cutting will not be as visible as in the minors,but will
it is not nearly as much enforced early in the minor league programs. Getz said
he has a talked to 15 to 20 team
representatives, and most were going to try
to just fill in a few standard things, but most have expressed a need to try
and reuse their old uniforms.”



Some teams
needing new ones, Gentz said, have decided against the traditional jerseys with
the logo sewn on the front. Instead, they have chosen a less expensive option in
which the team logo is pressed onto the jerseys, like a promotion T-shirt, or
jersey that used to be propelled into the stands with an air cannon in the
past.
“You can’t
notice it unless you are up close,” Gentz said. “It saves anywhere from a third
to half the cost.”


Teams are looking beyond uniforms for savings. One of the greatest
additions in recent years to the minor league experience, has been the upgrades
in in-game entertainment and stadium participation events. The Round Rock
Express, the Houston Astros’ Class AAA affiliate, has often bought or produced
yearly in-game entertainment features for fans from one season to the next. In
2009, however, the team plans to run the same video entertainment on the
outfield screen between innings.


That might include the same cap shuffle video instead of changing the
whole thing, like they have done in years past.  Most of these changes might
seem a bit subtle, but they do add up in the course of the season. Most teams
might not  redo their entire in-game system, but will strategically change their
entertainment. Even the action of maybe renting more of their inflatable things
will move in the right direction to show a decrease in spending and save more
traditional things, like a fireworks event during the season.

Because many teams at the lower levels of minor league baseball
played
their last games in late summer, they had not yet experienced  any type of brunt
from economic downturn. Since Sept. 1, the Dow
Jones industrial average has
dropped close to 25 percent, and the broader economic outlook for next year has
worsened by the day. Even with promises of economical upswings in the early
parts of 2009, it will take some time for any effects or upswings to hit the
minor league system, and  any upward move in revenues might not be felt by the
smaller clubs until 2010.

 

                               

 

 

At this years Minor League job fair, prospects seemed bleak for a
chance of landing  a good job with full benefits.  Most of the young turks
paid $225 to register for the fair, which helps them put their respective
résumés in front of minor and major league officials.  It seemed that in 2007,
at the same meetings in Nashville, Tennessee there were a lot more jobs and
a fewer people seeking the positions. Even jobs in ticket sales have been scaled
back in anticipation of financial downward spirals.



Broadcasting has always been a cherry position to acquire in the minor
leagues. In recent years, the broadcasting industry had more money flowing
through it, and few applicants for the positions. But now, the jobs are
considered seasonal, and benefits are also being pulled back to ensure financial
stability. So in 2009, you might get a coveted gig on the mic at one of the
ballparks, but it will most likely be only a 7-month position, and you will need
to seek a job for the other 5 months of the year.



A weak
economy is harder the lower you go on the ladder in the minor leagues. Most
teams survive on yearly budgets ranging from $3 million to $10 million, and have
relied heavily on companies like car dealerships to buy advertising and
sponsorships.
  Because of
the uneasiness in the auto industry right now, such sponsorships will be hard to
come by in 2009. More creativity will be needed to close deals with sponsors,
and multi-sponsoring events might become a great trend in the coming year.



 

 

 


To be able to
diversify sponsorship dollars among multiple sponsors might be able to bring
back some of the past years events, but might also limit other activities at the
ballparks. A great idea by one club in Minnesota is to pay $6,000 for an
inflatable jersey to use for in-game and promotional events, but to include a
velcro strip area on the jerseys front area to be able to use multiple logos, or
even seperate logos at events througout the year.



That would
save money, and also use creative measures to ensure sponsors are included at
their own events, and can be changed for every other events without huge cost to
the team. But will the economical downfall also be a time where sponsors who
might be making money hoard their resources and not even renew past contracts
with teams in spite of increased revenues. Will the influx of hard luck financial
stories be a catalyst for some sponsors as a excuse to pull
out.



Or will the
increase in gas prices and costs be a move for more people to go to local
ballparks instead of spending more money attending major league events and game
during 2009. Could being affordable or even a local option increase the people
walking through the turnstiles at minor league parks in 2009. By and far, the
minor league product is cheaper and more economical than attending a game at the
major league level. From ticket prices to concessions, the public get a better
deal at the minor league parks.



But will that
lead to concessions having a reduced price menu, or even a selected priced
location to get deals or even a series of deals within the confines of the
ballpark.  But in the end, the teams might just take the low road when it comes
to concessions ans offer a small portion, or even a smaller size to try and
eliminate the food costs and also help portion control issues.  Could last years
french fries  portion of 6 ounces be downsized to an economical 5 ounces this
year, or maybe the size of the stadium staple hot dog might be  a little
smaller, but still priced fairly reasonable.


 

 


Teams will
have to cut corners somewhere. The food courts and the food concessions is an
easy area to fulfill economical upside without throwing a lot of attention to the
plight. All I know is that in 2009, my hot dog will still be hot, my beer will
still be cold, and the sun will feel warm on my face when I hit those afternoon
games at Brighthouse Networks Field to watch the Florida State League Clearwater
Threshers.


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