Friday, June 25, 2010

Gulf Coast League (Rookie League) Baseball in Sarasota

Monday June 21 marked the beginning of Gulf Coast League (Rookie League) baseball in Sarasota. The "hometown" team is the Gulf Coast League Orioles, an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

Wikipedia has this information about the Rookie League:

Leagues in the Rookie classification play a shortened season similar to the Short-Season A classification leagues, starting in June and ending in early September. This lowest level of minor league baseball consists of six leagues, the Appalachian League, Pioneer League, Arizona League, Gulf Coast League, Dominican Summer League, and Venezuelan Summer League.[1] The Appalachian and Pioneer leagues are actually hybrid leagues; while officially classed as "Rookie" leagues, several major league teams have their higher-class short season teams in those leagues. These teams also maintain Rookie-level teams in other leagues as well. All of the other Rookie leagues are short season leagues as well.

You can read more about all of Minor League baseball at this link.

I attended the first game of the GCL Orioles season on June 21 here in Sarasota. The games are held in the back fields (spring training practice fields) at venerable old Ed Smith Stadium which is being renovated (finally!!!) in preparation for the 2011 spring training season.

Very little information has been made available about the GCL Orioles and their schedule. I finally called the Orioles about 10:00 a.m. on the Monday and was told when the season would start (that day) and at noon (in 2 hours!) and that they would be playing on the back fields of Ed Smith.

The person I talked with was Tracee Crump a Field Operations Assistant (does that mean Intern) with the Orioles in Sarasota. She was most helpful and immediately emailed me a copy of the GCL Orioles home season schedule that I've included below.

As instructed by Tracee I drove to the usual parking lot at Ed Smith and intended to walk south to the playing field. However the gate there was locked and bolted so I drove over to the Orioles Clubhouse and office and walked in from there. As I did I encountered a classically grumpy old bastard who took it as a personal affront to him that the gates in the main parking lot were not open. Unfortunately for Ms Crump she was walking back to her office when Grumpy Old Man found her and proceeded to read her the riot act about any number of things including the fact that there was no information anywhere on who the players were for either team. I thought the grumpy bastard was going to blow a gasket he was so upset. Ms Crump nodded her head knowing, as we used to say in Wisconsin, "when you get in a pissing match with a skunk all you get out of it is sprayed."

There were six fans sitting on the wooden bleacher behind the playing field. As you can see from this picture taken with my Blackberry, you can get really close to the field here.

Here you can mingle with the players on either or both teams, several of whom were sitting in the bleachers with me running the radar guns and recording data on pitches and their speeds.

The game was between the GCL Baltimore Orioles and the GCL team representing that state just west of Wisconsin where traitorous football quarterbacks go to play. Of course I was rooting for the Orioles (when asked by someone what team is my favorite I tell them "whomever is beating the team from just west of Wisconsin." As the final score indicates, the team from just west of Wisconsin beat the Orioles 8-4.

The quality of baseball played here is pretty limited. Think of a cross between a junior college and high school baseball team and that pretty much describes what I saw of Rookie League baseball. For the 35 or so kids in uniform on a Rookie League team this is likely their only shot at getting to the show. In AAA ball you can get sent down to Single A and work your way back up, or in Single A you can get sent down to Short Season A and work your way back up. However for Rookie League if you are cut then you go home. For the multitude of Dominican kids on both teams I watched that day that means back to cutting sugar cane in the fields north of San Pedro de Marcoris! This is it.

I won't make it a habit of going to GCL Orioles games like I'm going to the Bradenton Marauders games. The excitement just isn't there, the quality of play isn't there, and there is no beer to be had at the field. What's the point of watching baseball if you can't quaff some suds and eat a dog? However as time allows I will no doubt make it to some other games this year. I certainly won't travel away from Sarasota to watch the Orioles but if the Bradenton Marauders are out of town and I'm bored senseless I might stop by occasionally. After all there are few places where you can watch the greatest show on dirt for free.

Day Date Time Opponent

Monday 21-Jun 12:00 Twins
Wednesday 23-Jun 12:00 Red Sox
Saturday 26-Jun 12:00 Rays
Tuesday 29-Jun 12:00 Twins
Thursday 1-Jul 12:00 Red Sox
Friday 2-Jul 12:00 Rays
Tuesday 6-Jul 12:00 Red Sox
Wednesday 7-Jul 12:00 Twins
Saturday 10-Jul 12:00 Rays
Monday 12-Jul 12:00 Red Sox
Tuesday 13-Jul 10:00 Rays
Thursday 15-Jul 12:00 Twins
Monday 19-Jul 12:00 Twins
Wednesday 21-Jul 12:00 Red Sox
Saturday 24-Jul 12:00 Rays
Tuesday 27-Jul 12:00 Twins
Thursday 29-Jul 12:00 Red Sox
Friday 30-Jul 12:00 Rays
Monday 3-Aug 12:00 Red Sox
Wednesday 4-Aug 12:00 Twins
Saturday 7-Aug 12:00 Rays
Tuesday 10-Aug 12:00 Red Sox
Thursday 12-Aug 12:00 Twins
Friday 13-Aug 12:00 Rays
Monday 16-Aug 12:00 Twins
Wednesday 18-Aug 12:00 Red Sox
Saturday 21-Aug 12:00 Rays
Monday 23-Aug 12:00 Red Sox
Wednesday 25-Aug 12:00 Twins
Friday 27-Aug 12:00 Rays

*All times are tentative. All games held on backfields, please park in east parking lot on the corner of Tuttle Ave. and 12th Street. Games are free to the public.

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