Looks like our sabbatical from our blog is now over, as is our summer break—almost. So we need to catch up on all the events of the summer months, including our annual baseball trip.
This year we chose the Gulf Coast of Florida as our touring area and we were not disappointed with the baseball we got to see. That is, what we DID get to see. It was so rainy in Florida that even the residents were surprised. Those we spoke to continually tried to defend Florida’s weather, saying that usually it only rains a bit in the afternoon, then clears up and all is well. Our experience told us differently. We were in the Sunshine State (ironic as best) for 12 days and it rained every single day. Some days more than others—else we would not have seen any baseball at all. Most of the days it rained buckets! We were becoming prunes from the wet. As a result of the weather, we were rained out of an historic amount of games—historic at least for us. We missed one complete game because the field was too wet to even begin a game, then two other games were called due to rain after their beginning. A couple of games were in jeopardy of being played due to wet fields and threatening storms, but the brave and efficient grounds crews kept things going.
Add to the rain the extreme heat and we felt like lobsters ready to be taken out of the hot pot, steamed through. Of course, we expected the heat to be prevalent—after all, it’s Florida in the summer. However, after having lived the last 20 plus years around the Great Lakes, our blood has thickened and we don’t tolerate heat and humidity like we use to. (That could be due to age, as well, but we won’t go there.)
We did get to see some interesting baseball, though: six Florida State League games and four Gulf Coast League (GCL) games. The GCL is a rookie instructional league, something we had not seen before. We didn’t know what to expect. Would the coaches stop the game and come out to tell the players what they were doing wrong? Would the players have notebooks to take notes on what was happenings? Did the coaches lecture? Being academics ourselves, of course, our thoughts turn directly to class habits. But, no, that’s not how it works. The teams play a regular game—nine innings—and nobody interrupts the game to correct anything (except the normal pitcher’s mound meetings). What distinguishes these games from others is that they’re mostly all played on practice fields surrounding the stadiums used for Spring Training and very few people attend the games, which are free. There are no concessions, as well, and often, no bathrooms. So, you need to bring your own food and drink, and not too much drink because you’re going to have to run off to the local McDonald’s or Mobil station in the middle of the game. We were lucky at one doubleheader (a regular game and a continuation of a game called for rain—go figure!) that tournaments for Little League were being played on fields next to us and there was both unlocked bathrooms AND a food truck! We were in hog heaven that day!
These games, though, are a great chance to see the future players. And many of them are very young. There was one player we saw pitch a great game who is only 17. These are the kids of the future and here’s a chance to see how they are being cultivated. One player in particular, who we remember well, we didn’t even see him play, but we remember him because he has the same first two names of Dan: Daniel McGrath. He is a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox organization and we’ll be checking on his progress, simply because his name is family.