Monday, February 5, 2007


Miracle boys(I had promised some baseball/autograph stories, so here we go...)

One of the problems inherent in following the Gulf Coast League as much as I have the last two years is that it cuts down on my travel in following the Fort Myers Miracle. I do need to try to work more FSL road trips in, it's not like the stadiums are all that far away.

I see a lot of Ed Smith Stadium with the GCL boys, but it's not quite the same as seeing it during a FSL game. Attendance at both is questionable, but the people watching the GCL games are usually hiding up in the rafters, while the people for the FSL games are more or less down in the stands.

Ed Smith was built in 1989, and frankly, is not quite in keeping with the types of facilities built during that time. Originally the Chicago White Sox were using it for spring training, the Cincinnati Reds took it over in 1998, moving from Plant City. During the interum, the Boston Red Sox, who relocated to Fort Myers in 1993, took over the stadium for their High A Affiliate, apply named the Sarasota Red Sox, which operated for 11 years in the facility, with 2004 being their last year in the league.

The last two seasons, Ed Smith has hosted the FSL's Sarasota Reds, probably more in keeping with the number of spring training facilities in the state that also house the teams rookie league and High A league affiliates.

(It should be noted that the Red Sox would LOVE To move their High A affiliate into Fort Myers, but the Fort Myers Miracle affiliated with the Minnasota Twins, who beat the Red Sox into town by a year, and hold the territorial rights to the area. So the Red Sox have little recourse.)

My last FSL trip to Ed Smith was in 2004. At the time, their parking fees ($1.00) and admission prices ($5.00) were lower than the cost of a Fort Myers Miracle game, but their concessions prices more than made up for the difference. The stadium was "okay"...not really anything to write home about. City of Palms park is laid out along the same site lines, but the ammenities as CoP are better.

In any case, I'd gone over for a two game stint, April 30th and May 1st, with Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker being the starters respectively. (May 1st was the game I finally fell in love with Baker, as he pitched an absolute clinic out there.)

I'd gotten there early...with out of town games I always leave some leeway time for things like traffic and getting lost, and was able to more or less pick my own seat (not that I'd noticed it ever being a problem in that stadium) and watch the Miracle take some warm up practice. I sat next to the visitor's dugout - naturally.

A group of Cub Scouts moved into the section with me, and as they were coming in the they were all talking "We're going to cheer for the Red Sox!"

Anyway, I had a question so I got then Miracle coach Jose Marzan to come over and he stayed to sign some autographs for the kids. I'd also brought a bunch of Miracle pocket schedules which I handed out to the kids that had nothing to get signed. Sortly there after, Travis Bowyer, Brent Tamburrino, Jesus Marchan and quite a few of the other guys came over and was signing too.

Travis, of course, had to be Travis and gave me a hug when he came over, which set the kids off with "Is that your mom?" "Oh no!" Travis says "She's my girlfriend," and of course had to do the whole girlfriend skit for the delight of the stadium. I'm mentioning this because I believe it played a part in what transpired later. But that was just Travis, you know, playing the way he does.

But the kids had a great time and got just about everything they could think of to get signed, signed, no matter how inappropriate it was. We even talked one of the adults into getting his University of Miami hat signed by Hurricanes alumni Danny Matienzo.

The end result being that by the time the game started, they kids had totally forgotten about the Red Sox and were chanting "Let's go Miracle!" or at least "Let's go Miracles!" as the kids were want to do, not realizing that it's Miracle, singular, not plural.

Liriano pitched 4.2 innings, giving up three runs on nine hits, all earned and striking out six. Not quite the stellar numbers he put up for the Twins this last season, but...he was just learning.

Frankie was relieved by Travis Bowyer, who came bounding out of the bull pen and up onto the mound with much enthusiasm. He finished off the fifth inning, walking the first guy (why must he always do that?), before ending it on damage control.

Francisco LirianoIt was in the next inning that "the problem" occured. This guy comes down from over the dugout and says "That guy promised my daughter a baseball and she doesn't have one yet and she's up there crying."

I said "That GUY just got onto the mound and couldn't have promised your daughter anything." Knowing Travis, it wouldn't have surprised me if he'd promised a kid a baseball, but then, he'd usually give them one right away, not wait until later. I honestly don't think anyone "promised" him anything.

Besides this guy was cheering for the Red Sox. Why couldn't he go over and ask THEM for a baseball?

"Well then, maybe it was the guy that was up before him."

"Frankie speaks no english, so unless your daughter speaks spanish, I don't think he promised her anything."

"Well, she was promised a ball and she's up there crying."

"Sorry. I don't have any balls and I can't help you." I don't care if I was there supporting the team, I certainly don't have control of the team's balls.

And if you want your kid to have a baseball so bad, try spending $5 and buy her one.

Yeah, I know. What can I expect from Red Sox fans? I guess the whole Blow-Sox blow up over Dougie Mientkiewicz and his baseball didn't surprise me. Friggin' Bostonians, always gotta have a ball.

So the guy starts hanging over the railing, trying to get the attention of someone in the dugout to give him a baseball. I mean, bad enough when kids stand at the rail and beg, but this was a grown adult!

Finally an usher comes and makes him move. rude is that? If you're such a big Sox fan, why would you want your kid to have a scuzzy baseball from the Miracle anyway?

It would have been nice if they Miracle had wooped up on the Sox for that game, but that would have to wait until the following night, as the Miracle blew a ninth inning lead with Justin Olson on the mound, to lose 6-4.

The next night, I had gotten my ticket and was waiting for the gates to open when the guy at the box office called me over again and gave me a baseball.

"What's that for?" I asked him.

"Well, you were here early last night, and you're here early tonight and you came all the way from Fort Myers to support your team. I wish some of our fans were that loyal."

I did NOT give that baseball to a kid.