Just before leaving for tonight's Bradenton Marauder game vs the Daytona Cubs in Bradenton I received an email announcing the unprecedented occurrence of a Bahama Mockingbird in Fort DeSoto County Park in St. Petersburg, just on the other side of the Sunshine Skyway bridge. Needing this bird for my 2010 Florida Big Year I made a command decision to run up to Fort DeSoto (just 40 minutes from home) to look for the bird. If successful in my search I could be back in Bradenton (I figured) by the fourth inning.
With luck I got the bird within minutes of arriving at Fort DeSoto so I abruptly left headed back over the bridge to Bradenton. It was the 359th species I have seen in Florida so far in 2010. The record for a "Big Year" is 367 species so I'm well within reach of the record with more than half the year to go. But I digress.
Arriving in Bradenton about 8:15 p.m. the game with the Cubs was already in the SIXTH inning! The teams were in a pitching duel - Daytona had one hit and the Marauders had zero.
Before tonight's game the Daytona Cubs had the worst record in the Florida State League and the Marauders were 0.5 games out of first place in the South Division of the FSL. It should have been like David and Goliath out there (we being Goliath) but things don't always work according to plan. And when I entered McKechnie Field the Cubs were ahead by 1-0.
This was a pitchers duel.
Bradenton scored two runs in the bottom of the 8th inning to take a 2-1 lead however the Cubs came back in the top of the ninth with a run tying the score at 2-2. It was a nail-biter.
The umpires tonight were two of the worst umpires I have ever seen. Calling things incorrectly on the bases was Roberto Medino, a waste of flesh from a small town in Puerto Rico. Calling from behind home plate was Brandon Henson, a loser of the highest order. How either of these jackals was ever hired to do umpiring is simply beyond me. Last Saturday night in Port Charlotte these two clowns had to be escorted from the field by the Charlotte County Sheriff's Department after the game because so many people were upset with them. Last night in Bradenton a city police officer, wearing his gun and a taser, was so incensed at these two jerks that he stood at the edge of the field and screamed at them to get their act together.
They were no better this evening.
By the end of the 8th inning I had said very little in the heckling department although I was happy to hear many people around me heckling in my place including one woman who was coming up with some great lines! In the bottom of the 8th inning on an particularly ridiculous call I yelled at the umpire "Hey Ump!!! Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in awhile." This drew a lot of laughs and also a comment from someone sitting behind me who said "Watch out, he's started again."
The real excitement in the game came in the proverbial bottom of the ninth inning with the score tied 2-2 and one out the scenario went like this:
Bradenton Bottom 9th
* Pitcher Change: Jeff Beliveau replaces Marco Carrillo.
* Austin McClune strikes out swinging.
* Offensive Substitution: Pinch hitter Tony Sanchez replaces Erik Huber.
* Tony Sanchez singles on a line drive to right fielder Nelson Perez.
* Greg Picart singles on a line drive to center fielder Kyler Burke. Tony Sanchez to 3rd.
* Offensive Substitution: Pinch runner Starling Marte replaces Tony Sanchez.
* Jeff Beliveau intentionally walks Brock Holt. Greg Picart to 2nd.
* Robbie Grossman hit by pitch. Starling Marte scores. Greg Picart to 3rd. Brock Holt to 2nd.
It was sweet. With one out in the bottom of the ninth, runners on first and third, the Daytona Cubs manager called for an intentional walk of shortstop Brock Holt, himself a damned good player and someone to be reckoned with at the plate.
The bases are now full with one out. Walking Brock was a perfect strategic move because now any play at any base was an out, and with luck they could get a double play ending the threat.
However things didn't work according to plan.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, Center Fielder Robbie Grossman comes to the plate. Robbie is a good all around hitter but nothing really special. He dug in at the plate, took a few practice swings, scratched his balls a couple times and stood there waiting for the pitch.
I had visions of a grand slam coming up. Instead, the Daytona Cubs pitcher HIT Robbie with the first pitch. He went to first base and when Robbie went there, Starling Marte, the pinch runner on third scored the winning run and the Marauders WON this highly important game by the score of 3-2!!!!!
After tonight's win the Marauders are back at the top of the Florida State League's South Division ahead of the Palm Beach Cardinals (defeated tonight by the Dunedin Blue Jays 8-5) by 0.5 games. And just as good, the Charlotte Stone Crabs were defeated by the Lakeland Flying Tigers 4-2 so the Stone Crabs are in third place now 1.5 games behind the Marauders.
Life is good.
Some of my earlier predictions about Marauders players are not panning out the way I hoped they would. For one, Quincy Latimore seems to be in an endless slump. I don't remember the last time he got a hit and Quincy probably doesn't either. I'm not sure what's going through his head but it's not baseball. The same can almost be said for catcher Tony Sanchez who was last year's number 1 draft pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Granted, Tony had a clutch hit in the 9th inning tonight and was instrumental in Bradenton's win but its been since forever that he's gotten a hit. We were just lucky.
Outfielder Starling Marte is another disappointment. Starling started off strong but seems to be fading like a flare now. He was with the Gulf Coast League (Rookie League) Pirates last year and I am starting to think he needs to go back to them. First baseman Calvin Anderson is another person who is rapidly becoming a disappointment. At 6'7" Calvin is by far the tallest player on the Marauders roster however tallness doesn't translate into efficiency. When I see Calvin come to the plate I think to myself "Here's the designated out." He cannot hit a fastball to save himself. Toss him a curve and he will murder it. As one Marauder pitcher who regularly sits behind me said one night about Calvin (stealing a line from Kevin Costner in "Bull Durham") "Calvin couldn't hit water if he fell out of a fucking boat."
And he couldn't.
Tonight the Marauders play the Fort Myers Miracle. As usual I will be in Section 1, Row 1, Seat 1, primed to provide important heckling action as needed. Out of respect for him I will not heckle Miracle shortstop Chris Cates, but all the rest of them are fair game. The last time the Marauders played the Miracle in Bradenton I got on third baseman Debinson Romero's case so intensely that after he struck out the fourth time he walked into the dugout and broke his bat against the wall of the dugout. It's my hope that I can aggravate him to that point again tomorrow night. That's what heckler's do.