I left Miami and headed west, driving and hiking through the Everglades. That national park is different from any other I’ve seen in that it is not really, in the strict sense of the word, a tourist destination. Yes, tourists do visit, but it lacks the sort of memorable sights that most national parks feature. It is really more of an adventure destination – I doubt you’ll see much until you get further into the swamp by way of a canoe or kayak. I suspect my experience was typical for the casual visitor – egrets everywhere, but nary a gator in sight.
I stopped in Port Charlotte to see a minor league game. This part of Florida has two leagues – the Gulf Coast League (rookies, not playing yet) and the Florida State League – called Advanced A.
The home team Charlotte Stone Crabs are affiliated the Tampa Bay Rays and play their games the Rays’ spring training park, called the Charlotte Sports Park. It is fairly spacious by minor league standards and very well groomed.
On this night, there was a huge crowd of about 100 – OK maybe 200. Average age probably somewhere north of 65 (this is Florida after all!).
Speaking of that, the outfield ads contained more for health care and senior services than usual. Given the small size (including small text) of some of them and their distance from the seats, it’s hard to see that they’re terribly effective. The only one that stood out enough to qualify for the outfield ads category was this one – what the heck is a ‘bath fitter?”
The Crabs started strong against the St. Lucie Mets with three runs in the first and they didn’t let up. This laugher ended at 13-3 for the Crabs. Quite a contrast to the Marlins – Phillies contest. The Crabs feature brothers Nate and Josh Lowe, making it the first time I can remember seeing brothers on the same team.
The Stone Crabs mascot is like most, though there weren’t enough kids in the crowd to afford him the opportunity for the usual mascot shtick. You will see that his only distinctive feature is the claws.
The screens, as in most parks now, extend beyond the dugouts. That creates a problem for yours truly because it’s hard to get good pics through the screen. See the contrasting pics below. Even if I weren’t doing that, the screening makes it harder to follow the flight of the batted ball. What price safety?
It was interesting that what was a 20 second clock last year is now down to 15 seconds. That’s the time allowed the pitcher to deliver the next pitch. Again, I saw no enforcement, but the game did move along fairly quickly.
There was one puzzling enforcement incident. With a runner on first, the umpire suddenly motioned him to third. No explanation was given and I couldn’t figure it out – a double balk, maybe?
The eats were very limited, though the prices were reasonable for a minor league park. No concessionaire was going to retire on this night’s receipts. I did have a dog with cooked chopped onions, which was a new one on me, but also fairly tasteless.