Monday, July 20, 2009

Sarasota Reds Kick Ass, Take Names (Sorta) in Clearwater Tonight

Just returned now from a great Sarasota Reds v Clearwater Thresher Sharks game in Clearwater tonight. It was great because the Reds won with me in the stands. You can read the box score here.

This was my first game as part of my quest to watch a baseball game in each of the 12 stadiums used by the Florida State League. Up front I have to admit that Brighthouse Field in Clearwater is one hell of a venue for a baseball game. This is the spring training home of the 2008 World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies.

Despite this being "enemy territory" there are many things to like about Brighthouse Field. Most important among them is the "Beers of the World" stand where you can buy any of SEVENTY beers. Its located down along the third base line. In the left field corner you can also find the Tiki Bar that has Landshark Lager on tap - reason enough to come back for another game! Also the team store was just down the third base line where I was able to purchase a Threshers baseball cap. This is part of my quest to visit each of the minor league parks for a game and to get a baseball cap for each team. The Threshers hat will make any serious Jimmy Buffett fan more than proud. In fact I'm wearing this baseball hat to the Parrothead party in Englewood on Saturday night.

With Clearwater's team name the Thresher Sharks it was appropriate that much of the theme for tonight had sharks in it. For instance, Monday nights at Brighthouse Field are "Feeding Frenzy" night. With the purchase of a $11.00 "premium" ticket behind home plate I was given access to unlimited 1) hot dogs, 2) hamburgers, 3) cheeseburgers, 4) ice cream sandwiches, 5) popcorn and 6) something else that I've forgotten. With the Shark theme for the Field it was most appropriate that Cheeseburgers were available in abundance. However my Wisconsin roots required that I eat one of the Johnsonville bratwursts available off the Feeding Frenzy menu. Luckily they did not have Landshark Lager on the Feeding Frenzy menu! I may not have made it home in one piece had that happened.

The game started with Sarasota batting first. Center fielder Dave Sappelt hit the second ball pitched in the game deep into the left field bleachers. In fact the ball hit the roof of the Tiki Bar in left field. Things were off to a good start. Thankfully Dave's smash to left field did not harm the Landshark Lager tap. I raced up there between innings to make sure it was safe. It was.

Sarasota got 2 more runs in the top of the fourth inning. They turned out to be all the Reds needed but at times I wasn't so sure.

I was trained as a catcher by baseball coaches, beginning with Richard Gay in grade 9, to be an in your face ball player. It was my role as a catcher to pester the hell out of every opposing batter that came within ear shot. That was a role and a position that I have not given up even as a spectator.

Tonight I was seated in Section 112, Row 1, Seat 1. I was directly behind the catcher and within spitting distance of the field and well positioned to pester the hell out of every Clearwater batter who came to the plate. As my training requires, that is exactly what I did from the first inning onward.

Clearwater scored one run in the bottom of the sixth and it looked like it was going to be an easy but close win for the Reds. I think it was in the 7th inning when the Threshers loaded the bases and I was sweating bullets. However the Reds played real baseball taking a slap hit to shortstop who tossed it to second for one out. Then the second baseman threw a strike to home and we nailed the runner for a double play to end the inning with no runs scored. It should have stayed positive like that.

However things dont always work according to plan.

With the score Sarasota 3 and Clearwater 1 we entered the bottom of the ninth inning. As we prepared for the bottom of the ninth the Clearwater fans kicked into gear. I had been pestering batters up to now and by the responses of Clearwater fans pissing them off royally. However the bottom of the ninth began with the theme song from "Jaws" playing followed by video of sharks leaping out of the water. It was like a Buffett concert there....all to get the Thresher fans fired up. It also fired up the one Sarasota fan in the audience.

The first batter for Clearwater got a hit but the second batter was the Designated Hitter whom I started to harass calling him the "Designated Out" I did so over and over each time he faced a pitch. Finally he flied out to right field. Out number 1.

The next batter got a single to right field advancing the first batter to second. Runners now on first and second. The next batter reaches first on a throwing error committed by the Reds shortstop and a runner scores. Score now Reds 3 Clearwater 2. I'm now sweating bullets!

The next batter up for Clearwater was a pinch hitter. The screen in left field showed his name and with it the designation "PH" for pinch hitter. I started bellowing out "PH is PUSSY HITTER" over and over each time he faced a pitch. This tended to thoroughly piss off all of the Clearwater fans near me. I was relentless in pestering him. Finally two Clearwater fans walked up to me and rather threateningly said "You need to shut up now." I politely replied "I"ll shut up when the Reds win. Now go sit down." Luckily for me they did! They didn't see my knees quaking. The pussy hitter struck out!! I like to think I helped him.

There are now two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the Reds ahead 3-2. I was about in shock. On the second pitch the Clearwater hitter grounded to first base who flipped the ball to the pitcher covering the base for him and voila! The Reds win 3-2. I was ecstatic.

Tomorrow night I'm in Lakeland to watch the Lakeland Tigers take on the Charlotte Harbour Stone Crabs. Originally I thought I would root for the Stone Crabs just because of their name. However the Sarasota Reds are tied for second place in their division, three games back from the division leading Charlotte Stone Crabs. Looks now like I'll be rooting for the Tigers to beat the Stone Crabs.

Wednesday night I'll be with Susan at the Tampa Yankees v Fort Myers Miracle in Tampa. We have seats directly behind home plate there and despite my purchasing a Yankees cap I'll be rooting for Fort Myers simply because Chris Cates, the 5'3" shortstop/third baseman for Fort Myers will be on the field. I really hope this kid makes it to the show. I'll likely not get too boisterous because I have a feeling Susan will keep me in line.

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