Thursday, August 6, 2009

Roger Dean Stadium in Palm Beach

Roger Dean Stadium in northern Palm Beach County is the spring training home of both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Florida Marlins. In summer it houses both the Jupiter Hammerheads and the Palm Beach Cardinals. I was there last night for a game between the Hammerheads and the Cardinals. Up front it was sort of funny watching one team claim to be "away" and the other the "home" team in the stadium where both of them are home! But, its Florida and that should explain much.

This stadium is another in a long line of nice baseball facilities in Florida. The seats are spacious and there are lots of them in the box seats, and even in the general admission area. I think Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota is hands down the worst stadium but that will likely change now that the Orioles are coming to town and the ball park is scheduled to receive upwards of $30 million in renovations. They will be dollars well spent when you consider all the other parks.

The dimensions of Roger Dean are similar to most other Florida State League stadiums with dead center at 410 feet. The beer selection is adequate but the Landshark Lager sign in right center field is especially nice. With Jimmy Buffett now a resident of Palm Beach County the stadium better damned well be carrying advertisements for his beer!

General admission tickets for this park are $8.50 each but surprisingly you can reserve a seat for that price. I stopped by the field about noon 30 and got my seat - directly behind home plate 4 rows back - and then went out to work on my Palm Beach and Martin County bird lists until game time.

The final score in tonight's rout was Palm Beach 9 and Jupiter 3. However given the distance I had to drive home coupled with a few brewskis under my belt (couldn't resist, I was at a ball game) I left after the sixth inning when Palm Beach was ahead 8-0. I guess I wouldn't have gained much by staying any longer. I left the parking lot at Roger Dean stadium at exactly 9:00 p.m. and pulled into my parking lot at home at exactly 12:00 midnight (is midnight a.m. or p.m.?? nobody has ever been able to give a cogent answer). I was surprised to be able to make it across the state in exactly 3 hours especially with the two pit stops I had to make in Okeechobee and Highlands counties. Luckily for me there were no fire ants waiting to munch on my toes as happened a week or so ago coming home from Fort Myers.

This is now the 9th stadium I have visited of the 11 stadiums used by the 12 teams of the Florida State League Class A minor league teams. There was nothing truly remarkable about this stadium that made it stand out from the others I have visited and its glaring lack of a tiki bar made it unlikely Roger Dean will ever make it to my "most favorite stadium" list. Still it was a nice place to watch a game and enjoy the ambiance of baseball. Tonight's official attendance was 778 spectators - it seemed like there were fewer people in the stands than that. Maybe the attendance figures include season's ticket holders?

I was able to pick up baseball caps for the Palm Beach Cardinals:
And the Jupiter Hammerheads
bringing me two steps closer to my goal of getting baseball caps for each of the 12 FSL teams.

I need to check next week's schedules for Daytona and for the Brevard County Manatees. Especially for the latter I need to make damned sure that I read the starting time of the game correctly so I don't miss a game. Perhaps by the end of next week I will have been able to see those two teams on their home turf and completed the mission of getting them all. Given the history of Jackie Robinson and the prejudice he experienced in Florida when he was a rookie, it will be most enjoyable seeing a game in a stadium named after him in Daytona Beach. That alone will make this mission worth the effort and expense. Regardless I want to have visited all the stadiums and obtained a baseball cap for each team by the time the baseball season ends in early September.

As for tonight...well my hapless Sarasota Reds are playing against the St. Lucie Mets here in Sarasota. Its $1.00 night for admission, hot dogs and popcorn. I can expect a mob of people trying to get any concessions from the poorly-managed concession stand here. The Reds are just four games back from the lead in their division but I have confidence they can make that even worse and will lose to the Mets. To make matters more frustrating, the St. Lucie Mets have the lousiest record in all of Florida State League baseball....yet they can beat the Reds. Go figure.