Category Archives: Pensacola Blue Wahoos

MLB’s Push to Play Ball in 2020 is Heading into Extra Innings

Negotiations continue to heat up between representatives of baseball owners, and representatives of baseball players, in an attempt to salvage some sort of 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season.

One of the latest rumors floating around, as reported by several outlets, includes a proposal from the owners to play a 50-game season, followed by expanded playoffs and a World Series. The players representatives have proposed playing as many as 114-games starting around the July Fourth Weekend.

As I have stated many times, I miss baseball and would love to see it played again. I have also said many times, in many ways, that I do not miss baseball to the point that I would want to see a fan-free condensed season just so someone can pat themselves on the back and say, “hooray, we had a 2020 MLB season.” Fifty games a season does not make. Even at 114 games, the risk trade of having a season, versus not having a season does not come out in favor of playing ball.

As part of the proposals being floated around it was reported that players will have the option to sit the season out if they do not feel safe playing ball in the era of the global COVID-19 pandemic. While players would not be paid if they sit the season out, they would get credited with a year of baseball service.

Baseball in the olden days, like during Spring Training of this year, involved crammed dugouts. The baseball in the new time of COVID-19 will look very different.
Photo R. Anderson

Any final agreement on playing the 2020 baseball season must allow players to opt out, and I applaud that position being addressed through the negotiations.

While I am firmly entrenched in my stance that baseball just needs to sit this year out and try again next year, I know that there are people who will disagree. This other side of the coin from my position feels that having baseball, any baseball, is just what is needed during these times of pandemic and civil unrest.

Although I do not agree with that position, I respect that position, just as I would hope that people on the other side would respect mine. Society works best when people can have a healthy productive debate on an issue, agree to disagree, and part with respect for the other person’s opinion.

But from where I am sitting, I have yet to hear a strong enough case that baseball, any amount of baseball, this year would be in the best interest of all involved. Let me state my case.

I get that there are huge financial stakes for both the owners and the players if baseball is not played this year. I also understand that the players in the Minor League Baseball (MiLB) ranks are being hardest hit by a lack of games, as in many cases they are about to lose their paychecks.

Sean Doolittle and other members of the Defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals, committed to give MiLB players within the Nationals organization financial assistance during the time without baseball.
Photo R. Anderson

In regards to the players of MiLB, I am encouraged by the stories of MLB players, like, David Price of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Sean Doolittle and other members of the Washington Nationals, committing to give MiLB players financial assistance.

In making the announcement on his Twitter page, Doolittle noted that, “All of us were minor leaguers at one point in our careers and we know how important the weekly stipends are for them and their families during these uncertain times.”

I am also encouraged by the stories I see of MiLB Ballparks, like the home of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, and Sugar Land Skeeters, finding creative ways to generate revenue inside their facilities during this absence of games.

I do not pretend to believe that financial hardships do not exist in baseball, but in many cases the financial strain that they are feeling is a drop in the bucket compared to the issues being faced by small businesses and employees across the country who have lost their livelihoods and jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A word to baseball as you air your grievances about trying to make sure you get your money by having some sort of season, know the room. You may find that many of the fans that you count on to support you will get a bitter taste in their mouths by reading stories of you arguing over millions of dollars, when many of them are wondering which bill they won’t pay this month in order that they can eat.

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos listed their ballpark on Airbnb as a way to generate revenue during the stoppage of baseball brought about by COVID-19.
Photo R. Anderson

If baseball, any baseball, is played this year, of course the players should be paid.

Furthermore, they should be paid well for risking their lives during a pandemic just to bring people at home some distraction from the world events around them. They just need to ensure that the discussions regarding how much they should get paid do not come off as ignoring the suffering around them, and the bigger picture.

This is a tricky point, as well as a sticky point. With no fans in the stands, creating a strictly made for television game so that networks and teams can make revenue to pay players for playing that game can come across as rather tone deaf.

But wait, the owners will say, “in some cities we are allowed to have up to 25 percent capacity in our Ballparks, so there will be fans in the stands for the games.”

And how exactly is the 25 percent decided upon?

I am sure most teams have season ticket holders for more than 25 percent of the seats in a Ballpark. Let us also not forget all of those corporate funded luxury suites that surround many Ballparks. So, do season ticket holders and suite users get first crack at seeing a game in person, versus someone who just buys a couple of tickets a season? Don’t even get me started on how one would be able to socially distance at a concession stand.

Do teams set up a Hunger Games style lottery where everyone puts their names in a hat and hopes that the Ballpark fortunes are forever in their favor?

I welcome being shown if there is a way to equitably pick 25 percent of a fan base to sit in the stands for a game. Until then, from my seat here, I conclude that more problems are created than solved by starting to let fans into the Ballparks at reduced capacity.

As part of any return to action, players would be socially distanced within the dugout and would be prevented from any physical contact with each other such as high fives, hugs, etc.
Photo R. Anderson

Another issue to consider is the health of both players and fans attending these games. As part of any return to action, players would be monitored for symptoms of COVID-19.

Additionally, as I noted in a previous column, players would be socially distanced within the dugout and would be prevented from any physical contact with each other such as high fives, hugs, etc.

Even if I am willing to concede that players could be socially distanced in the dugout, and on the field, there is still the issue of dirty balls. Most balls I have seen put into play are touched by a lot of people.

A ball that is part of a routine double play has the potential to be touched by up to four players, and that is before the ball goes around the horn in the infield. And telling a pitcher that they can’t lick their fingers before a pitch is probably not going to go over too well.

How to socially distance during mound visits is one of many areas that will need to be figured out before baseball returns during the COVID-19 era.
Photo R. Anderson

Again, make no mistake, I miss baseball. But I have yet to see a proposal where the benefit of a return of baseball outweighs the risks. And I am sorry, but the champion of a shortened, round robin, regionally based, season does not deserve to be called World Series Champion in the same light as a team that battled for a full season in the past.

The record books of baseball would be much better served by a line item saying, “the 2020 season was cancelled due to a global pandemic brought about by COVID-19, but returned even stronger in 2021,” then trying to pass off a team that played a third of the games in a normal season as the champion.

If players and teams want to stage a 50-game exhibition season as a measure of goodwill that is one thing. But, don’t try to play 50 games in empty ballparks and try to call it a season. You are so so much better than that baseball.

So, in conclusion, stay home baseball. Take care of yourself, and I will hopefully see you next spring. I care too much about you to have you risk your health, and the health of those who play you just so somebody can unfurl a “mission accomplished 2020 World Series Champion” banner inside your Ballparks.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some books about baseball to catch up on.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Many Situations in Life Would be Better with Walk up Music

Go to any baseball game from Little League to Major League, and odds are that when a batter is coming up to the plate, they will be serenaded by walk up music.

The type of walk up music selected varies depending on the player. Players often alternate their walk-up music between the guitar driven hair band standards, as well as pop music depending on their moods. Other players may even select country music or hip hop for their walk-up theme.

During the Washington Nationals’ 2019 run to the World Series Championship, Gerardo Parra, united a team, and a fan base, by walking up to the song ‘Baby Shark.’ Nats Nation took the Baby Shark craze to extremes with fans dressed up in shark suits in Nationals Park. An engraved shark was even included on the Nationals World Series Championship ring as a tribute to the role that baby shark, mommy shark, and daddy shark played in bringing the title home to Washington D.C.

During the Washington Nationals’2019 run to the World Series Championship, Gerardo Parra, united a team, and a fan base, by walking up to the song ‘Baby Shark.’
Photo R. Anderson

Whether the music selected is hard rockin’ or bubble gum poppin’, it serves a key purpose when it comes to the battle between the pitcher and the batter.

Or as Ebby Calvin ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh from Bull Durham would say the players use the music to, “Announce their presence with authority.”

Granted it would be hard for a batter to announce their presence with authority by walking out to the pop styling of Carley Rae Jepson’s Call me Maybe?, but it could be a good call maybe if it made the pitcher laugh so hard that he couldn’t throw a strike.

As with everything in baseball, there are rules to the walk-up music. The songs chosen need to be family friendly and the music is supposed to stop once the player enters the batter’s box.

Of course, a really good walk up song can lead to players lollygagging their way to the batter’s box to hear more of their “theme” before facing the pitcher.

A few years back while catching a Blue Wahoos game in Pensacola, FL, I had the pleasure of watching the home plate umpire make sure the plate was spotless so that more of Neil Diamond’s, “Sweet Caroline” could serenade the people in the grandstands. I must say, that it was so good, so good, so good.
Photo R. Anderson

A few years back while catching a Blue Wahoos game in Pensacola, FL, I had the pleasure of watching the home plate umpire make sure the plate was spotless so that more of Neil Diamond’s, “Sweet Caroline” could serenade the people in the grandstands. I must say, that it was so good, so good, so good.

While there is not an exact Archimedes stepping into the tub and shouting “Eureka” moment when it comes to the invention of walk up music, most baseball people point to the 1993 Seattle Mariners as the fathers of the walkup.

While certain individual players had used walk up music before, the Mariners are widely credited with being the first team to come up with a song for each of their players in the lineup.

It seems fitting that the city that brought flannel and grunge to the world of music would also be the city to bring music to the batter’s box.

An idea that some felt was stupid turned contagious in 1993 when the city that brought the world grunge music brought walk up music to Major League Baseball when the Seattle Mariners became the first MLB team to have walk up music throughout their lineup. Soon the idea was in bloom throughout all levels of baseball.
Photo R. Anderson

After the Nats claimed the World Series title in 2019, the Seattle Mariners became the only MLB team to have never appeared in a World Series. Still, despite never appearing in a World Series, the Mariners can at least lay claim to being the champions of the walk up.

Of course, theme music is not limited to batters. Pitchers, especially closers, have also gotten into the act of having music introduce them.

Retired New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera famously walked out from the bullpen to the sounds of “Enter Sandman” from Metallica.

And of course, who can forget Charlie Sheen as Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn walking out to “Wild Thing” in the Major League franchise.

The cinematic walk up music predates the Mariners walk up trend by about five years, and is also often pointed to as being instrumental in the evolution of walk up music.

The Ballparks of the world are mostly silent now thanks to the COVID-19 virus. Or, put another way, as John Candy’s security guard character told Clark Griswald in National Lampoon’s Vacation, “Sorry folks, park’s closed. Moose out front shoulda told ya.”

Of course, just because the Ballpark is closed, it doesn’t mean there can’t be walk up music in other areas of life. Just think how much more exciting life could be if all of our big moments were preceded by music.

Just picture the boardroom scenario where someone says the following. “Now up to present the quarterly earnings report, Joe Smith” (cue the music).

After a few bars of (insert song here) Joe knocks the earnings report out of the park while his coworkers serenade him with Queen’s “We are the Champions” and fist bump each other on the way out of the conference room. (Editor’s note: fist bumping may be changed to socially distanced air bumping to avoid contact in the post COVID-19 working remotely world.)

Of course, different situations in life would require different music.

While some situations might call for some Pearl Jam, others may require heavy organ sounds of Bach. Others situations might even find people moving their hips and nodding their heads like yeah.

Pearl Jam and Walk up music are two Seattle originals still going strong for over two decades and counting.
Photo R. Anderson

Just cue up the appropriate song for whatever situation comes up and one is ready for anything that life throws their way.

Your curbside grocery pickup order didn’t have any missing items? Well, that calls for some “Back in Black” by Def Leopard as you drive past the people still waiting for toilet paper.

While it is unlikely that the walk-up song idea outside of the Ballpark will catch on any time soon, it is certainly something to think about the next time you’re listening to the radio, or filling out that dreaded TPS Report before video conferencing with your boss.

In the spirit of promoting everyday walk up music, I guess my walk-up music in this new era of COVID-19 would be the Kenny Loggins classic “I’m Alright” complete with dancing gopher from Caddyshack.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a strange urge to listen to some Neil Diamond while brushing away invisible dirt with a tiny brush.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

 

Building my Ballpark Bucket List for When the World is Open Once Again Part 1

For the past five years, I have traveled an average of one to two weeks a month. During this time, I saw a lot of hotel rooms, drove a lot of rental cars, and most impressively I mastered the art of snagging a coveted aisle seat close to the front of a completely full Southwest Airlines flight. On those rare occasions when the seat next to me on the flight was empty, I felt like I had won the lottery as I crisscrossed North America during the carefree days before COVID-19.

Over a five-year span I logged a lot of miles in blue planes just like this one.
Photo R. Anderson

Many of those trips involved visits to Ballparks and other sporting venues. I saw Major League games at Dodgers Stadium, Angels Stadium, Tropicana Field and Coors Field. I caught Minor League games in Colorado Springs and Port Charlotte, among other places.

For good measure, I even visited four hockey arenas. While Coolio sang of living in a “Gangsta’s Paradise,” I was truly spending most my time living in a sports fan paradise.

The era of the non-retractable roof Ballpark as fallen out of fashion in recent years. Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays, is truly the last of its kind. Based on historically low attendance some might argue that the Trop was the first Ballpark to engage in social distancing.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, that carefree ability to cram into full arenas, full ballparks, and even full blue Boeing 737s, has been put on hold for the foreseeable future thanks to the COVID-19 virus.

Large gatherings of people at sporting events would be the perfect storm for community spread of the virus. So out of an abundance of caution, fans will not be allowed to congregate for a while once the sports world reopens.

I can totally respect that since, a) I really don’t feel like getting sick just so I can see a game in person, and b) drinking Dr Pepper with a straw through a hole in my officially licensed MLB face covering does not sound like fun.

Constellation Field in Sugar Land, TX has a scoreboard that reminds people what state they are in. This can be helpful for fans who become disoriented from the heat.
Photo R. Anderson

Although I will not be able to see live sports any time soon, that does not mean that from the relative safety of my gigaplex I cannot compile a Bucket List of the ballparks I want to visit once the green light is given to safely return to mass gatherings.

My Bucket list of Ballparks I wanted to visit was already pretty extensive. However, as I have had much time at home to contemplate, I have had the chance to add to it. For the purpose of this exercise I have selected a Top 10 list of Ballparks I want to see when the world reopens.

The list is broken up into five Ballparks that I want to visit again, and five Ballparks that I want to see for the first time. The Ballparks include facilities at the Major League level, the Minor League Level, as well as the Independent League level.

For the first installment of our series, I have chosen to look at the five Ballparks I want to see again. While I will always enjoy finding new Ballparks to visit, I also enjoy returning to some old favorites. The five Ballparks on this list are ones that I would visit for every game if I had the chance.

Constellation Field, Sugar Land, TX

A mascot with a water gun is the perfect combo for baseball in triple degree heat.
Photo R. Anderson

Located just a smidge too far away from the gigaplex for me to be a season ticket holder, Constellation Field plays home to the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.

With reasonable prices on tickets, food, and souvenirs, a game inside Constellation Field won’t break most piggy banks. The action on the field is exciting, and the mid-inning promotions staff provides the usual Minor League Baseball standards to keep the fans entertained.

I do take issue with the team getting rid of the carousel in Center Field a few years ago, but aside from that, this little ballpark is pretty much perfect for catching a game. The Ballpark is in Texas so it does get hot during day games in the summer, but there are thankfully ways to stay cool including a splash pad and air conditioned areas.

Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL

Though it is criticized by many, I find Tropicana Field to be a pleasant place to catch a game while also feeding some wildlife.
Photo R. Anderson

Tropicana Field gets a lot of flak from a lot of people. They complain about the location of the facility as well as the fact that it is one of the last of the multi use large domes that once dotted the sports landscape from coast to coast.

While domes in Houston, Seattle, and Minnesota have given way to single use baseball fields, courtesy of the Ballpark renaissance kicked off by Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Tropicana Field stands as a reminder of what a certain era of Ballpark design looked like. While the Trop has haters, I actually like the Ballpark. It was one of the first facilities to allow people to bring in their own food and also offers an unlimited refill policy on soft drinks.

Paying tribute to the days when the Tampa Bay Rays were known as the Devil Rays, there is even a Ray touch and feeding tank in center field. Plus, it is hard to beat catching a game in air-conditioned comfort and staying dry during those hot and wet Florida summers that last from March to November.

Coors Field, Denver, CO

During my lone trip to Coors Field I hit a triple with a Pepsi, a hot dog, and a bobblehead.
Photo R. Anderson

Next up is Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies. I have only had the pleasure of attending one game at this Ballpark. It was a day game during a Colorado heat wave and the vendors were selling equal amounts of beverages and sunscreen.

From what I could see through my sun screen irritated eyes, the Ballpark has a lot to offer. The game I attended included a bobblehead giveaway, as well as a race between people dressed up as the presidents on Mount Rushmore. Not too shabby.

Coors Field made the list, based on my desire to catch a night game at the Ballpark and to have time to explore more of the amenities without feeling like I was every bit of a mile closer to the surface of the sun.

Dr Pepper Ballpark, Frisco, TX

Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, TX is a great venue to catch a game, just try to avoid day games in August.
Photo R. Anderson

Dr Pepper Ballpark is home of the Frisco Rough Riders, who are the Double A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. It has been several years since I made the drive up to the Ballpark located in a suburb of Dallas, but it is a drive well rough making.

The Ballpark features bullpens that are surrounded by seats so fans can really get a close look at the pitchers warming up. The facility also includes a lazy river and a pool, which is perfect for the sweltering heat that the Dallas Metroplex is famous for.

One major plus of Dr Pepper Ballpark, is the availability to have a cold and refreshing Dr Pepper. I am sure there are people who do not mind Pibb Xtra, but for me it has to be Dr Pepper. With the headquarters for Dr Pepper being located next door in Plano, TX, I feel pretty confident that the Ballpark will keep serving Dr Pepper for years to come.

Blue Wahoos Stadium, Pensacola, FL

Pensacola’s Blue Wahoos Stadium is a true gem among Ballparks and has a waterfront view that can often include spotting the Blue Angels returning from an Air Show.
Photo R. Anderson

Blue Wahoos Stadium is home to the Blue Wahoos, a Class Double A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. The Ballpark is one of my favorites for many reasons. The location right on the bay is hard to beat.

The concessions are top notch. The Ballpark itself is beautiful and has been named best ballpark in the country by numerous outlets, including being a three-time recipient of the Southern League Ballpark of the Year award. The Ballpark is the smallest facility in the Southern League and this creates an intimate fan experience.

I try to visit Pensacola as often as I can. When the world reopens, and it is safe to move about the country once again, Pensacola will be one of the first trips that I make. Southern League Baseball has always been my favorite league since catching Orlando Sun Rays games with my mom at Tinker Field in Orlando. The Blue Wahoos allow me to keep that tradition alive once every other year or so.

These five Ballparks are definitely places I would go to again and again. There are other Ballparks that I could have included as well on my list of places I love catching a game at. Be sure to return Friday when I will reveal the five venues that I want to visit for the first time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about Ballparks has me craving a hot dog and some nachos.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

 

NASCAR Provides First Look at What the Return of Sports Could Look Like as Other Sports Sit Impatiently in Neutral

Brad Keselowski started on the pole on May 17, 2020 when NASCAR returned to live racing after a nearly two month hiatus.
photo R. Anderson

When the history books are written to describe the era of COVID-19, it is likely that yesterday, May 17, 2020, will be remembered as the day that sports returned to America.

Okay, to be fair, all sports did not return yesterday. Declaring the “all clear, come and play ball y’all” is likely months away from occurring. Factor in a return to wide open, stadium rockin’ sports as they were prior to March 2020, and some experts say that could be a year or more away.

Still, yesterday will be remembered as the day that NASCAR told their drivers to start their engines, and the fans to stay home and watch. It is easy to see how NASCAR was the first sport to draw up a game plan for a return to competition.

Kyle Busch is set to run seven races in 11 days in all three NASCAR series as part of the sport’s return to live competition.
photo R. Anderson

Drivers sit alone in their 3,000 plus pound octane 93 fueled chariots. So, even during rubbing and bump draftin’, social distancing can be maintained.

Throw in helmets, and protective gear for the pit crew members, and you have yourself a ready-made example of responsible sport in the COVID-19 era. At least that is how the plan is supposed to work.

While social distancing works in NASCAR, other sports leagues will find it harder to show that the athletes are separated by the recommended Center for Diseases Control (CDC) guidelines of six feet of separation. The next sport on the clock to try to return a fan-free viewing experience to the world is Major League Baseball.

Baseball has already returned in South Korea where the season opened in empty ballparks, followed by ballparks allowing up to 1,000 fans to attend from a safe social distance.

It is hard to imagine a scenario where Major League Baseball says the first 1,000 people to the ballpark are allowed inside. It is safer to say, that the only people sitting in the stands for the foreseeable future whenever baseball does return will be team employees.

While no exact timeline has been established for the return of baseball, when it does return it is likely that the pregame lineup exchange at home plate will be eliminated.
photo R. Anderson

I have said this before, and it bears repeating, I miss baseball. However, I do not miss baseball to the point that I want to see players, umpires, and other team personnel put at undue risk of exposure to a virus that currently has no cure just so I can have a few hours of live sports during my work from home time.

Blake Snell, the 2018 Cy Young Award-Winning pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, made waves when he commented on his Twitch channel last week that playing an abbreviated baseball season with a pay cut was not worth the risk to his health for future seasons. Based on estimates of the proposals being negotiated between MLB management and the player’s union, Snell would earn around $2.3 million instead of $7 million in salary for playing what would amount to at best an 82-game season.

To be fair, athletes risk injury every time they take the field. However, one can certainly argue that risking your pitching arm and needing to miss a season because you are recovering from Tommy John surgery is entirely different than risking your health because of a virus.

Snell’s candid assessment of needing to look at his life after this season, versus playing this year and risking his health, drew the usual round of negative comments with people calling him “entitled,” and that he should just “shut up and play.”

After Blake Snell drew criticism for voicing concerns about returning to play baseball, fellow All-Star Bryce Harper noted that Snell made public feelings that many players are pondering in private in regards to the risk of playing baseball too soon to their long-term health.
photo R. Anderson

A pair of All-Stars, in Bryce Harper and Nolan Arenado, came to Snell’s defense by noting that Snell went public with what many players are thinking in private related to needing to look long and hard at the risks associated with returning to play baseball this year.

As part of a return to the ballpark plan reported by ESPN, players and all other people involved in the games would be tested for the COVID-19 virus several times a week to allow any potential outbreak to be snuffed out at the source. Under the plan to mitigate the spread of the virus , according to the ESPN report, players, would also be banned by fist bumping, high fiving, and spitting.

However, it is unknown whether players will still be allowed to bang on trash cans in the dugout. Too soon Astros fans?

MLB is targeting a return to play in early July. It is highly likely that the return will feature fireworks and other festive celebrations as the “Boys of Summer” play the National Pastime once more. Any return to play scenario needs to allow players to choose whether they want to return, or if they are willing to forfeit their salary in order to focus on their health for future seasons.

MLB is targeting a return to play in early July. It is highly likely that the return will feature fireworks and other festive celebrations as the “Boys of Summer” play ball once more.
photo R. Anderson

Assuming that MLB does the right thing and allows players to choose to sit out the season, that creates the question of why not just wait until next year to play at all.

Can an 82-game season with some of the top players on each team choosing to not play really be considered legitimate?

Of course, the answer, as it usually does, centers on money. Even without fans in the stands team owners and broadcast networks can make money on games.

Another footnote in the year of COVID-19 history book should not only include the day live major sports returned with NASCAR, but should also include the day that the MLB potentially chose finances over safety. Of course, that financial risk versus personal risk calculus is being performed across the globe as multiple industries look to reopen in the middle of a pandemic.

Millionaire baseball players aren’t the only ones who will need to perform a risk trade when it comes to returning to work. Employers at all levels need to be sensitive to the concerns raised by workers, and where possible accommodations need to be made to protect both their health and their jobs.

I miss going to see Swatson and the rest of the Sugar Land Skeeters. I look forward to a time when I am once again watching them from inside the ballpark.
photo R. Anderson

I am eternally grateful to the men and women working at the grocery store who bring my order out to my car and allow me the opportunity to stay safely socially distanced. Too often, some elements of society look down on workers in retail, transportation, healthcare and hospitality.

Society owes a huge debt to all of the people on the front lines. When the pandemic is over, the people who kept us safe, fed, and tended to health-wise, should be the first ones allowed inside the sporting venues as a show of thanks from a grateful nation.

Until then, sports leagues need to temper their enthusiasm for returning to play. We all miss sports. However, it would just take the death of one player to show that the risk was not worth it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my work from home fury coworkers are meowing for some kibble.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

 

Huntsville Stars Fell Out of Alabama

Not that long ago it was announced that the Huntsville Stars of the Southern League are moving from Alabama to Mississippi to become the Biloxi Shuckers beginning with the 2015 season.

It is not uncommon for baseball teams to move from one city to another, but there are two sides to every move.

For the city getting the team there is the excitement of welcoming baseball to town and having new options for entertainment.

For the city losing the team there are the thoughts of what could have been done differently to keep the team in town.

Although I never made it to Huntsville, Alabma to see them play I did see the Huntsville Stars in action against the Orlando Rays in 1990. Since that time the Rays moved to Alabama and changed their name to the Biscuits while the Stars are headed to Mississippi to become the Shuckers. Photo R. Anderson
Although I never made it to Huntsville, Alabama to see them play I did see the Huntsville Stars in action against the Orlando Rays in 1990. Since that time the Rays moved to Alabama and changed their name to the Biscuits while the Stars are headed to Mississippi to become the Shuckers.
Photo R. Anderson

For Huntsville the decision to move to Biloxi was Ballpark driven. After a deal to construct a new Ballpark in Huntsville failed to materialize the team was sold and moved to a brand new Ballpark in Biloxi.

There are doubts about whether the new Biloxi Ballpark will be done in time which leads to a possible awkward scenario where the team may still play some games in Huntsville next year but for all intents and purposes the days of baseball in Huntsville are done for now.

As I have said many times, I grew up on Southern League baseball at Orlando’s Tinker Field.

Despite several facelifts through the years Tinker Field was, by all accounts, a very old ballpark which lacked luxury boxes, suites, organic concession stands and the other must haves in today’s Ballparks.

While some found the lack of amenities as a negative, in my opinion the lack of those features added to the charm and made the games more fun to watch.

For me a Ballpark should be a little gritty and show some wear and tear. I want to feel like generations of people before me sat in similar chairs and watched nine innings played on a humid summer night under the stars sipping sweet tea and trying to catch a foul ball in the stands.

Although I never managed to catch a foul ball Tinker Field always gave me that time capsule feeling whenever I saw a game there.

Unfortunately for Tinker Field a new Ballpark was built up the road at Walt Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex at the end of the 20th Century and the Orlando Rays, the Double-A Affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, moved to the Ballpark that the Mouse built in 2000 and left Tinker Field without a Minor League Baseball team.

Despite moving to what they thought was greener pastures, the Orlando Rays broke their 10-year lease with Walt Disney World’s Ballpark and left the Orlando market entirely following the 2003 season and became the Montgomery Biscuits.

Orlando’s loss became Montgomery, Alabama’s gain.

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are another Southern League team that moved in the last couple of years. The team formerly known as the Carolina Mudcats made the westward journey from North Carolina to the sugar sand shores of Florida in 2012.

In 2012 the Pensacola Blue Wahoos were born when the team formerly known as the Carolina Mudcats made the westward journey from North Carolina to the sugar sand shores of Florida.  Photo R. Anderson
In 2012 the Pensacola Blue Wahoos were born when the team formerly known as the Carolina Mudcats made the westward journey from North Carolina to the sugar sand shores of Florida.
Photo R. Anderson

Since moving to Pensacola the Blue Wahoos have been named one of the best organizations in baseball and have had their Ballpark, which they sell out routinely, listed at the top of several polls.

The Shuckers appear to be trying to follow the Pensacola model of running a franchise where a new baseball starved market replaces a market and/or Ballpark that is deemed to be outdated.

While there are certainly nice features in the new Ballparks being built I think in the era of Ballpark building people forget that the main reason to go to a Ballpark should be to see the actual game.

In recent years I have seen more and more people at baseball games that probably don’t even know that there is a game going on.

It is certainly an individual’s right to pay for a ticket and then spend nine innings reading a book or sitting with their back to the field the whole game, but the actual baseball game should still be the main attraction at a Ballpark.

Pensacola quickly moved to the top of the Southern League ballparks when they took the field in 2012. Biloxi is looking to duplicate that success when they open their new Ballpark next year.  Photo R. Anderson
Pensacola quickly moved to the top of the Southern League ballparks when they took the field in 2012. Biloxi is looking to duplicate that success when they open their new Ballpark next year.
Photo R. Anderson

I will admit that when I am watching a game at home on television I will often find myself doing two or three other things at the same time so my attention is not fully on the game.

But when I am watching a game in person I could not fathom spending nine innings not watching the game.

Of course these new Ballparks are not always built for the regular fan in mind and tend to cater more to businesses who use their suites as places to hold corporate events or other functions.

I am sure that Biloxi will be a fine city for baseball and I look forward to adding it to my list of cities to catch a game in. And while Biloxi is certainly close for me to get to then Huntsville, I do feel bad for the people who lost their team.

I know how I felt when Orlando lost their Minor League Baseball foothold so it is definitely rough for the fan bases that are left behind.

While I am a firm believer in keeping Ballparks free of distractions that take away from the game I will admit that I enjoy watching the boats go by when I attend games in Pensacola. It is also possible to see the Blue Angels flying home to Pensacola Naval Air Station some nights. Photo R. Anderson
While I am a firm believer in keeping Ballparks free of distractions that take away from the game I will admit that I enjoy watching the boats go by when I attend games in Pensacola. It is also possible to see the Blue Angels flying home to Pensacola Naval Air Station some nights.
Photo R. Anderson

The Southern League currently has teams playing in Birmingham, Alabama, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Jackson, Tennessee, Montgomery, Alabama, Kodak, Tennessee, Biloxi, Mississippi, Jacksonville, Florida, Pearl, Mississippi, Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida.

By comparison the cities represented by the Southern League in 1992 were Memphis, Tennessee, Charlotte, North Carolina, Greenville, South Carolina, Knoxville, Tennessee, Raleigh, North Carolina, Huntsville, Alabama, Orlando, Florida, Jacksonville, Florida, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama.

It is likely that the Southern League has not seen the last team relocation. There are already rumblings that Huntsville is going to try to get a team to replace the one that they lost. Panama City, Florida is also rumored to be looking to add a team so for either of those cities to gain another must lose.

While there can be only one when it comes to certain sword wielding movie immortals, in the Southern League there can only be 10.

With only 10 slots available at any given time that leaves a lot of southern cities fighting to join the league. I just hope no one loses their head in the process.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am suddenly in the mood to watch the Highlander.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson