The Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League wrapped up an abbreviated Spring Training with a trio of games against two local colleges last week.
While teams will often play exhibition games against colleges during Spring Training, for the Skeeters scheduling games against colleges becomes a logistical necessity.
Unlike Major League Baseball where Spring Training sites are located within driving distance of each other in either Florida or Arizona, teams within the Atlantic League are spread out over several states.
When your closest league opponent is based in states that border the Atlantic Ocean, finding teams closer to scrimmage with can certainly be a huge advantage.
The Alvin Community College Dolphins and the San Jacinto College Gators filled the roles of Spring Training opponents to help the Skeeters prepare for the start of the regular season.
The Skeeters won all three of their Spring Training games as one would expect, but the games proved to offer more than just a box score.
For starters, the games allowed the use of a mixed fleet of bat types.
While most professional baseball leagues lean toward the wood bat camp, college baseball allows the inclusion of metal bats.
With the metal bats in play, fans were treated to the rare pinging sound of a ball meeting a metal bat within a professional Ballpark.
Additionally, the players from both colleges will be able to tell their friends that they played against a professional baseball team. The players who managed to get hits of of those same professional players will have even bigger stories to tell.
Another plus for the Spring Training crowds in attendance, was plenty of elbow room and the chance to scout out the best seats in the ballpark.
For the most part, there are not any bad seats in the Ballpark. However, it never hurts to try to see the view from various vantage points whenever one has the opportunity.
Speaking of opportunity, fans were treated to their first views of Tracy McGrady. McGrady is trying to join an elite club of former NBA stars to become professional baseball players.
Hoping to make the team as a pitcher, McGrady, worked one inning Friday night against the Dolphins and allowed one run on three hits.
While his baseball stats may have a small sample size thus far, McGrady was a seven time All-Star and recipient of two scoring titles during a 16 year NBA career where he spent time with the Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks and San Antonio Spurs.
Whether past success in basketball will transition to future success in baseball will remain to be seen. But, if the rack of McGrady jerseys in the Skeeters team store is to be believed, someone in the organization is hoping that it does.
Aside from the normal concession stands and gift shop found in most Ballparks, the Skeeters facility also includes two water features in the form of a pool and a splash pad area.
The multiple water features allow fans the opportunity to cool off during those hot nights at the Ballpark and have become a feature of many of the Minor League Ballparks within Texas.
Saturday night the Skeeters introduced a new on field water feature as well when the sprinkler system inadvertently went off in the middle of the game.
While several fans in the front rows along the third base side of the field ran for dryer ground, many of the players stayed put during the impromptu rain delay.
To paraphrase the movie “Bull Durham,” baseball is a simple game. Sometime you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes the grounds crew forgets to turn off the timer on the sprinkler system.
In an era where every second inside the ballpark experience seems scripted from sponsorships and other concerns, it is refreshing when something like the sprinklers going on occurs to remind people that it is still a game where the unexpected can happen.
With a 3-0 Spring Training record, the Skeeters will spend this week making final roster cuts to get to their 25-man roster before the regular season begins on Thursday.
Early signs and shirts certainly point to Tracy McGrady making the team. However, an official announcement will likely not occur before Thursday.
Until then, fans will sit and wait to see who makes the Opening Day roster.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I suddenly have a craving for some peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
Copyright 2014 R. Anderson