Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dunedin Stadium and a Sarasota Reds Win

I just returned a minute ago from a Sarasota Reds VICTORY against the Dunedin Blue Jays at Knology Stadium in Dunedin.

This stadium feels like a postage stamp when you are in it. Everything seems so compact. The weirdness begins when you are driving north on Douglas Avenue in Dunedin and suddenly on your right you see the stadium. Its sudden because there are NO signs indicating an approach to a ball park. No signs suggesting that you might want to turn right to enter the parking area. No nothing. Its just there out of the blue. Strangest thing you could imagine regarding a ball park. Of course I am a tad biased after Monday night's game at the Clearwater Thresher Sharks stadium where there is a Tiki bar just behind left field. In fact I drove by the stadium tonight as I darted north on US 19. I guess I was wishing longingly that they had done the same thing in Dunedin. They hadn't.

The picture below was taken during a Toronto Blue Jays spring training game. The stadium's capacity is about 5,500 people. Tonight there were just over 700 in the stands but it seemed like even fewer people were there. I think the thing that makes it seem so small is the line of trees directly along the outfield fence line. They just make it feel like they are on top of you rather than the other way around. I'm not sure how else to explain it. Its 330 feet down the right field line and 334 feet down left. Center field is 400 feet. These are almost identical to both George Steinbrenner Stadium in Tampa and Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. Yet everything seemed closer in.

I was perched in the front row directly behind home plate where I had a perfect view of the plate and the pitches and any plays at the plate. It was a perfect place from which to watch a ball game.

Tonight was "Thirsty Thursday" night with a promotion of $1.00 glasses of beer. All they had on tap was Budweiser so it really wasn't beer in the sense of beer but it still tasted good, especially at $1.00 a glass. It was also "Super Hero" night - a promotion I never really understood. The crowning glory of the promotion was watching these three guys dressed and outfitted like Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in "Ghostbusters" I'm not sure what the hell they were supposed to be doing and never saw them involved in any of the promotional stuff. They, like the stadium, were just strange.

On entering the stadium I paid $6.00 for a general admission seat that allowed anyone to sit anywhere. Getting my ticket I darted over to the Blue Jays store and purchased my Dunedin Blue Jays baseball cap. I now have been in five of the 12 stadiums in the Florida State League and have 5 of the 12 team baseball caps. Monday night I'll be down in Charlotte Harbour for a Stone Crabs game and Tuesday night in Fort Myers for a Miracle game so I'll get a couple more stadiums and caps early next week.

Not long after taking my seat I heard three men behind me, each with a "sho'nuff" Georgia accent, talking about that afternoon's golf game. One of the three mentioned that he was a 1969 high school graduate. My ears perked up when I heard this and it happened just about the same instant that the rest of the beer in my glass misteriously disappeared. Walking past these three men as I went to replenish the missing beer, I asked the 69'er, "did I Hear you say you graduated from high school in 1969?" He said he had. I then told him I went to high school in northern Wisconsin and our unofficial class motto was "Booze, broads, butts, wine; we're the class of sixty nine!" I had intended to ask him if his class had a similar motto but didn't have to because by the time I got to "wine" he was already reciting the motto with me! Last year I met a 69er from Seattle Washington whose class had the same motto as ours. Now this guy from Georgia. Maybe its safe to assume that 69ers were similarly warped throughout the United States.

As the box score of the game shows, the Sarasota Reds won, but not convincingly, over the hapless Dunedin Blue Jays. Dunedin scored first and early with runs in the third and fourth innings. The third inning run was one of the biggest mistakes I have ever seen in a ball game. With runners on first and third the Sarasota Reds pitcher let his guard down not calling a time out. As he ambled back to the mound after talking to the catcher the smart-thinking Dunedin runner dashed for home and made it while the Reds pitcher stood there wondering what the hell just happened to him.

We entered the top of the 8th inning with Dunedin ahead 2-0. Luckily the Reds scored one run bringing us out of the shut out column but not close enough for a victory. Just as I was getting ready to leave and chalk up another Reds loss with me in the stands I was overcome with guilt and decided to stay for the rest of the game. I'm glad I did.

In the top of the 9th inning the Reds kicked ass and took names. The inning started with Alex Bucholtz getting a double and from there it just became fun. By the time right fielder Dennis Phipps caused the third out the Reds had scored 4 more runs taking the lead 5-2!! Dunedin came back with one run in the bottom of the 9th but that wasn't enough and the Reds won 5-3. This is now two games in a row that the Reds have won with me in the stands. A new team record!

For this, the second half of the season, the Reds are now solidly in third place four games back from the Division leading Charlotte Stone Crabs. I won't see them again until Sunday afternoon when the Reds play the Daytona Cubs in Sarasota.

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