Friday, December 24, 2010
Holiday Greetings from the Little Latitudes
2010 was a rather active year here on Florida’s Sun Coast filled with lots of bird watching, lots of baseball, a little travel, and the completion of writing another book.
January 1 2010 found me making the first of 11 trips to the “Redneck Riviera” otherwise known as the Florida Panhandle, to chase birds. I began the year hoping to topple the record of 374 bird species seen in Florida in a calendar year. By Christmas Eve I’d beaten that record with 390 species. In the process I was in each of Florida’s counties at least five times, drove more than 23,000 miles (it’s a long way from Key West to Pensacola), and spent 66 nights in hotels or the backseat of my car somewhere in the Sunshine State.
February brought the Baltimore Orioles to Sarasota for their first year of spring training, and March, when not chasing birds, was filled with spring training baseball games. The three best memories of the spring were watching David “Big Poppi” Ortiz from the Boston Red Sox hit a ball into orbit at City of Palms Field in Fort Myers, watching the Minnesota Twins go down to defeat every time I saw them play, and heckling a Philadelphia Phillies pitcher so relentlessly that he gave me the finger. Sweet!
In April the Bradenton Marauders, a Class A farm team for the Pittsburgh Pirates, made their debut in Bradenton. With season tickets I watched 68 of their 70 home games plus a few on the road. The Marauders made it to the playoffs in their first year which was very exciting to witness. I was able to expand my repertoire of baseball heckling phrases and eventually became known as the “Designated Heckler” by many of the Marauder fans and players.
Speaking of baseball heckling in September I finished the manuscript for my first novel. It’s titled “The Heckler” and it fictionalizes the 2009 season of the former minor league Sarasota Reds. It comes complete with lots of twists and turns and in the style of any good Florida mystery it leaves bodies strewn across the landscape.
International travel this year was restricted to a birthday jaunt to Medellin, Colombia. This was my fifth trip to Colombia and I spent five days in the central Andes of this much-maligned nation awestruck once again by the enormity of the Andes and by the beauty of its birds.
Plans for 2011 are rather fluid so far. Baseball spring training begins in just a few weeks and minor league games begin in early April. I have season tickets again for 2011 and plan to be directly behind home plate for every Marauder home game. The big travel plan for next year, to celebrate my 60th birthday on Halloween, is to spend 35 days birding and traveling in South Africa and its neighboring countries.
With this message I want to wish my friends and family a happy holiday season. Don’t forget to celebrate Jimmy Buffett’s birthday on Christmas Day, and I hope 2011 is even better for you than 2010.