Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers - and a FM Miracle Loss

I just returned from watching a hard fought baseball game between the Brevard County Manatees and the Fort Myers Miracle played in beautiful Bill Hammond stadium in Fort Myers. Even though this stadium lacks a Tiki Bar in left field like the Clearwater Thresher Sharks stadium, it is by far the nicest of the six Florida State League stadium's I have visited in the past weeks. In fact the only thing I could fault this stadium on is the fact that the professional baseball team from that state that borders Wisconsin on the west, and whose name I absolutely refuse to utter, uses Bill Hammond stadium for the spring training each year.

Tonight was two-fer Tuesday with everything on the menu, including libations, for sale for 2 fer one. Thus I could stock up on hot dogs and large beers and cut my cost in half. They told me that on Friday nights the stadium has a happy hour from 6 - 7 p.m. where all libations are $1.00. Knowing this I may have to travel down to Fort Myers more often for ball games.

Inside the park I found the seating spacious and in the box seats each seat had a beer glass holder (important stuff!). Distance down the foul lines was 340 feet (like Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota) and dead center field is 405 feet (five feet more than Sarasota). The ball park is fringed with palm trees adding to the tropical ambiance of the place. I've been keeping a list of bird species observed in ball parks and tonight at Bill Hammond I added Red-tailed Hawk and Loggerhead Shrike to that list.

The first pitch was thrown at 7:05 p.m. with the bone-chilling temperature at 79 degrees! I was shivering. The Manatee pitcher threw a perfect game through the first four innings. This kid was hot. The scoreboard in left field showed the speed of each pitch thrown and on several occasions this kid had 100 mile per hour pitches. My hand hurt just imagining the Manatee catcher picking up those pitches. There were multiple pitches in the 94 to 98 mph range also.

Fort Myers never got its groove going allowing two runs in the top of the first and another run in the top of the third. With the way the Manatees were pitching they could have rolled up the sidewalk at that time and gone home.

The final score was Brevard County 4 and Fort Myers 1. My buddy Chris Cates, the 5'3" shortstop for Fort Myers had a miserable night at bat but made some sterling throws to nail Manatee runners. There were more than 1,200 people in the stadium - a nice change from the meager audience at a Sarasota Reds game. One encouraging thing about the fans is that many of them were loud and obnoxious in their pestering of Manatee players. Several came up with lines I had never thought of!

This was my sixth Florida State League ball park where I was able to get my sixth FSL team baseball cap. The Miracle cap has a palm tree on it making it almost as cool as the Thresher Shark on the Clearwater cap.

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