Tag Archives: Sugar Land

Sugar Land Skeeters Form A League of Their Own to Play Ball During Global COVID-19 Pandemic

The Sugar Land Skeeters, of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB), recently announced their intention to form a four-team professional baseball league at Constellation Field, beginning July 3 and running through Aug. 23.

The idea of a four-team quick summer league sounds great on the surface. Of course, as one peels back the layers of the onion, they are reminded of the fact that we are still in the middle of a global pandemic caused by a virus with no known cure or standard treatment.

The news of the league comes as the number of COVID-19 cases in Texas continues to rise to record numbers on a daily basis. As a result of the rising numbers of cases and hospitalizations, some businesses that had reopened, like bank lobbies, are starting to close again.

The Sugar Land Skeeters, of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (ALPB), recently announced their intention to form a four-team professional baseball league at Constellation Field, beginning July 3 and running through Aug. 23.
Photo R. Anderson

With that in mind, the team ownership noted when they announced the league that they would be working with local and state health officials to provide as safe of an environment as possible for fans, staff and players.

Among the steps being taken is following the guidelines from the state of Texas as well as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in regards to stadium capacity and social distancing. Players will be tested for COVID-19 at least once a week, as well as prior to their arrival in Sugar Land.

In regards to fans in attendance, the plan calls Constellation Field to allow up to 25 percent of its 7,500-seat capacity to be full for each of the planned 56 games in the season.

According to a press release from the Skeeters, there will be a total of seven games played at Constellation Field each week from the Opening Day on July 3 through the conclusion of the season on Aug. 23. The schedule is subject to change, but single games are anticipated to be played on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and doubleheaders will be played on Saturday and Sunday.

The names for the four teams have yet to be announced. In the spirit of helpfulness might I suggest such timely names as, the Pandemics, the Social Distancers, the COIVD-19’s, and the Doc Faucis.

The four teams will be managed by Skeeters manager Pete Incaviglia, seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens (along with his son Koby), and former Cleveland Indians pitcher Greg Swindell. The fourth team will be led by a manager to be named later. It should be noted that both Roger and Koby Clemens played for the Skeeters.

Former Sugar Land Skeeters player Koby Clemens will manage one of the four teams in the Skeeters Summer League alongside is father, Roger.
Photo R. Anderson

Open tryouts for the league are scheduled to take place at Constellation Field on June 24. It is expected that the teams will consist of former Major Leaguers and an assortment of professional players who’ve appeared at affiliated minor league levels as well as independent leagues.

Despite the best efforts of social distancing and testing, it is extremely likely that there will be people associated with the league who contract COVID-19. In the event that occurs, team officials have noted that the show will go on as the league takes the posture of accepting a certain level of risk in order to play baseball.

This is the magic question faced by all sports leagues, and in fact all individuals, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. How much risk is one willing to take in order to do the things that were done in the olden days of pre-March 2020?

The answer depends on the individual’s level of comfort, as well as whether the individual involved belongs to one of the identified high-risk categories of greater susceptibility to the virus.

Years ago I saw this sign at a Pensacola Pelicans game. It is unknown whether the tickets to the Sugar Land Skeeters Summer League games will include small print waiver language stating that fans in attendance assume both the risk of getting hit in the head by a foul ball, as well as assuming all risk if they contract COVID-19 at the ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

It is unknown whether the tickets to the games will include small print waiver language stating that fans in attendance assume both the risk of getting hit in the head by a foul ball, as well as assuming all risk if they contract COVID-19 at the ballpark.

I can picture the wording going something like this, “Sorry folks, you can’t sue us for getting sick. The lime green mosquito up front should have told you that.”

The Skeeters are not alone in trying to find creative uses for their Ballparks this season. According to the ALPB, the High Point Rockers, Long Island Ducks, and Southern Maryland Blue Crabs are working with several professional baseball clubs, towards finalizing a 70-game schedule of play that would begin in mid-July and wrap up at the end of September with a five-game championship series.

Other ALPB teams that are not able to host baseball games due to crowd size limitations in their regions are hosting movie and music festivals in their Ballparks as a means to generate revenue.

And of course, Major League Baseball is still trying to hammer out an agreement to play baseball without fans in attendance for the 2020 season.

Personally, I would love to see baseball at all levels sit the season out. I do not believe the short-term gains of unfurling those Opening Day banners in 2020 outweigh the long-term risks to player health, as well as overall league health.

The last thing anyone should want to do is have a short term pebble drop ripple turn in to a tsunami with unforeseen consequences down the road. One should not sell their soul for a shortened season.

And just because a Ballpark is open, it does not mean that fans need to go to it. If the movie Field of Dreams was filmed in the era of COVID-19 it is likely that the voice heard in the corn field would tell Ray Kinsella to “build it and they will come after the threat of the COVID-19 virus has been eliminated by the invention of either a vaccine or a therapeutic treatment.”

After all, those players may have been ghosts, but they were certainly in a high-risk category based on their ages. Speaking of that Iowa corn field, the New York Yankees and Chicago White White Sox are scheduled to play each other at a temporary ballpark adjacent to the field from the movie on August 13. It is unknown whether the game will be played, and if it is whether the people will be allowed to come, or if only the corn will have ears to hear the game.

Baseball, and the rest of life as we knew it in the golden days of pre 2020 will hopefully return next year. We will reach the other side, and when we do, the Ballparks will once again be full of fans and games of dizzy bat. Until then, teams and leagues will continue to seek creative solutions to “go the distance” as they navigate uncharted waters like a 21st century Lewis and Clark to ease our collective pain.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all this talk about shortened summer baseball leagues has me in the mood to watch Summer Catch.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

McGrady Shows That he Wants to Be Like Mike

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Michael Jordon’s attempt to become a professional baseball player.

For those who may have been too young to know, or old enough to have forgotten, “Air Jordon” took a stab at being “Ballpark Jordon” during a stint with the Chicago White Sox Double-A affiliate Birmingham Barons.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Michael Jordon's tenure as a Minor League Baseball player. Tracy McGrady is trying to be like Mike and make the rster of the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League. Photo R. Anderson
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Michael Jordon’s tenure as a Minor League Baseball player. Tracy McGrady is trying to be like Mike and make the roster of the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League.
Photo R. Anderson

As a 31-year-old multimillionaire with NBA titles under his belt Jordon certainly did not fit the mold of the typical Minor League Baseball player but in a gesture of good will towards his new teammates his “Airness” bought the team a new bus to travel all of the Southern League back roads on.

Throughout Jordon’s time with the Barons Ballparks across the Southern League sold out as fans crowded to see the future NBA Hall of Famer in action on the diamond.

Jordon’s time as a baseball player was also given the Hollywood treatment in the movie Space Jam.

When the Michael Jordon baseball carnival rolled into a Ballpark every media outlet in town sent a reporter and a photographer down to capture every swing of the bat and to capture the electricity in the stands.

By most accounts Jordon’s baseball career was a complete flop.

Or to put it more kindly Jordon was one of the many Minor League prospects who just don’t pan out and have to fall back on another career in order to put food on the table.

For Jordon the post baseball career included a return to the NBA and the Chicago Bulls and some more championships.

Now, 20 years after the Jordon baseball experiment another retired NBA star is set to try to find extra innings in his athletic career through Minor League baseball.

After retiring from the NBA, Tracy McGrady is trying to reinvent himself as a pitcher with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League.

While it is unknown if McGrady will earn one of the 27 roster spots available on the team his presence has already created a bit of buzz around the Skeeters facility.

At 6’8” McGrady creates a towering presence on the mound.

Former Houston Rocket Tracy McGrady is looking to join the ranks of the Sugar Land Skeeters as a pitcher. Photo R. Anderson
Former Houston Rocket Tracy McGrady is looking to join the ranks of the Sugar Land Skeeters as a pitcher.
Photo R. Anderson

Teams tend to like taller pitchers as they allow the ball to have more downward movement in most cases.

So from a size and stature standpoint McGrady has the intangibles to be a successful pitcher.

From a marketing perspective the Skeeters, fresh off of an Atlantic League crown, are benefiting from the publicity that comes from a former basketball player turned pitcher.

The Skeeters are also the team who lured Roger Clemens out of retirement to make a couple of starts during their inaugural season to stir up some publicity so they know a thing or two about putting on a show.

Like Roger Clemens who had both ties to Houston and a Hall of Fame worthy career, McGrady is also quite a household name around town with the local fan base since he was a member of the Houston Rockets.

Of course as Michael Jordon showed it is not easy to switch gears late in one’s career and try something completely new.

There have certainly been successful two sport stars before but most of them played both sports at a high level throughout high school and college before going pro.

Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders are perhaps the most famous two sport athletes and each played both baseball and football at a high level.

If all goes to plan Tracy McGrady will be up on the Texas jumbotron soon for the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson
If all goes to plan Tracy McGrady will be up on the Texas jumbotron soon for the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

But neither Jackson nor Sanders waited until after retiring from one of the sports to pick up the other.

I think the world needs another Bo and “Prime Time” to spice things up but I also think the commitments from teams on athletes nowadays would make it difficult for a two sport star to succeed.

Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, and under contract of the Texas Rangers, is the next logical player to be a two sport star but it is unlikely that the Seahawks would want to risk their star quarterback getting injured on the baseball field.

Of course Wilson could always decide to go into baseball after his NFL career is over since baseball players on average can play longer than football players.

But that brings us back to McGrady and his attempt to turn pro in a new sport.

In order for McGrady to make the team he will need to knock one of the existing pitchers off of the roster.

Rosters will be finalized next week so it will be known at that time whether Tracy McGrady can add professional baseball player to his already impressive athletic roster.

There will be a few Spring Training games between now and the roster deadline to allow him to show his stuff on the mound and for the coaches to decide whether or not he makes the opening day roster.

If Tracy McGrady does make the roster for the Skeeters and trades jump shots for curve balls he will join a unique set of players who have enjoyed a second act with a new sport.

As another bonus should McGrady defy the odds and make the team is that his battery mate behind the plate will be Koby Clemens, son of Roger Clemens.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to watch a basketball player pitch.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Skeeter Experience as Sweet as Sugar

No mater the level of competition, from Little League to Major League, the passion for the game of baseball remains the same for those players who truly love the game.

The other night I saw that passion displayed in an Atlantic League game between the Lancaster Barnstormers and the Sugar Land Skeeters at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, TX.

The Skeeters are in their second season of play and ever since it was announced that they were coming to town I have wanted to catch a game. Sadly, something always seemed to come up last year whenever I planned to head that direction so my goal of seeing a game during the inaugural season did not come to pass.

Ballparks just look better under the lights. Photo R. Anderson
Ballparks just look better under the lights.
Photo R. Anderson

All of the elements finally aligned this past weekend to allow me to make my first trip to the Ballpark. And even some tricky Google map directions, and poor ballpark signage that sent me to the unlabeled parking lot A instead of the equally unlabeled parking lot B, couldn’t dampen the spirits of adding another Ballpark to my list of places that I have seen games.

The night featured many firsts for me as it was my first Atlantic League game which meant it was my first time seeing both the Barnstormers and Skeeters as well as my first trip to Constellation Field.

Constellation Field in Sugar Land, TX is the home ballpark of the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson
Constellation Field in Sugar Land, TX is the home ballpark of the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

But of course every trip to the Ballpark, especially a first trip to the Ballpark involves a bit of a learning curve.

While I had a seat two rows from the field on the third base side I zigged when I should have zagged when it came to the food choices.

I ended up with a loaded hot dog which included chilli, cheese, onions, sauerkraut, and probably some other things that I missed under the cheese blanket. While the hot dog was good, and the Dr. Pepper was cold, it was not until I took another lap around the concourse that I saw the real food choices that the ballpark had to offer. There was a pizza booth which as I have mentioned before is one of my favorite ballpark staples. There were also booths selling barbecue, gourmet popcorn, Tex Mex, and Philly cheese steaks.

Lest one forget what state they are watching the game in there is a Texas shaped scoreboard to guide them. Photo R. Anderson
Lest one forget what state they are watching the game in there is a Texas shaped scoreboard to guide them.
Photo R. Anderson

So, the lesson learned is no matter how hungry I am entering a Ballpark the trick is to walk the full concourse before selecting a food item.

The food remorse passed quickly and it was time to get immersed in the feel of the in game between inning entertainment which included dizzy bat, tricycle races and boxing.

The game itself was good as well as the home team remained undefeated at home for the season. Of course, the other professional baseball team in the Houston area cannot say the same thing but more on that later.

Despite the Ballpark I am in when I am watching a game, one constant always seems to find me. No matter where I sit it never fails that within earshot and visible range there will be at least one overly intoxicated fan who feels the need to make their presence known through, a) berating players or umpires or b) telling a story (or two, or three) that is way too loud to ignore and takes away from the ballpark experience. Another constant with these loud mouths is the presence of small children with them.

Former Boston Red Sox player Aaron Bates up to bat for the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson
Former Boston Red Sox player Aaron Bates up to bat for the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

All of those factors came into play one section over from me with the extra loud drunk fan there with friends as well as small children providing a totally unnecessary running commentary.

The only break from his commentary was the two innings he spent in the concession line which of course he had to retell in great detail upon his return.

Now, before I get comments saying that I am trying to take away people’s right to drink at the ballpark let me say that is not the case.

Personally for me the hardest drink I need at the ballpark is an ice cold Dr. Pepper. But, for those who want something with alcohol in it I can totally support that desire and their right to do that.

Both teams kept the base paths busy but it was a couple of long balls that proved to be the deciding factor. Photo R. Anderson
Both teams kept the base paths busy but it was a couple of long balls that proved to be the deciding factor.
Photo R. Anderson

What I refuse to support is the fan who downs a six pack or more during the pregame and then proceeds to get drunk and annoying during the course of the game. And this goes across all sports not just baseball. Every sporting event I have ever attended where I was not covering it from the press box has included at least one fan who is way too loud and way too drunk.

I am not sure how Ballparks and stadiums can address this but it is also one of the reasons that I rarely stay for an entire game. I like to have a two inning head start before the drunks hit the road.

So, drunk annoying fan aside there was a lot to enjoy at the Skeeters game. The food is reasonably priced. The sight lines from the seats are good. And the quality of play is top notch and allows fans to catch glimpses of former and future Major Leaguers in action at a fraction of big league prices.

And speaking of that other professional baseball team in Houston. As I was driving past Minute Maid Park on the way home I happened to turn on the radio to see how the Astros were doing.

Sunsets look best on the beach and at the Ballpark. Photo R. Anderson
Sunsets look best on the beach and at the Ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

I want to say I was surprised when I heard that they were losing by a score of 13-1 to the Detroit Tigers but in reality my only thought was how did they manage to score the one run.

The Astros ended up losing by a score of 17-2 when all was said and done. Conversely the Skeeters defeated the Barnstormers 5-4 in a game that saw the lead traded back and forth several times.

So, while it is a little further for me to drive to Sugar Land to see the Skeeters as opposed to driving to see the Astros, I believe that I will be spending more of my baseball viewing time with the Skeeters for the foreseeable future.

Of course when the Rays, Orioles and Rangers are in town I will probably make the trek to Minute Maid Park.

That is not to say that I won’t still catch the Astros on TV or that I am no longer a fan but if I am spending money on something I want to feel that the team is committed to winning. Quite frankly I do not get that impression these days from Houston management.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to figure out what the next new Ballpark to visit will be. Perhaps I will see some of you there.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson