On Friday, KC, JR and I went to McKechnie Field in Bradenton to see the hometown Marauders play the Charlotte Stone Crabs in Florida State League (high-A) action.  On Saturday, we went to Tropicana Field in St Petersburg to see the Rays play the Cleveland Indians.  And last night we went to Port Charlotte to see the Stone Crabs play the St. Lucie Mets.  Three different towns, three different stadia, three very entertaining evenings.  I apologize in advance for the quality of some of the photos; they were taken under less than ideal conditions and I didn’t exactly have the equipment to overcome them.

First, McKechnie Field. Here is the facade, facing 9th Street West in Bradenton, FL (remember, just click on the pictures to enlarge them):

As you can tell from the outerwear, this picture is from Spring Training 2010. McKechnie Field is a beautiful, cozy little ballpark. It’s been the spring home of the Pirates since 1969, and hosted the Cardinals when it first opened in 1923.  The first night game was last year, and they only had one for Spring Training 2010.  This picture is from that game; the Pirates faced the Baltimore Orioles, who just moved to nearby Sarasota for their spring games (I posted pictures of one of those games here):

And here is a picture I took that night of the Pirate Parrot — I believe this is the “real” Parrot rather than a ST replacement.  He saw me trying to sneak a picture of him, so he decided to take advantage of the situation and make a face at me:

As mascots go, he’s not bad, but he’s no Mr. Met.  But then, who could be?

And, just for the record, here is a day game at McKechnie, also from March:

Unfortunately, when I was at the Marauders/Stone Crabs game on Friday, I didn’t think I’d be blogging about it, so I didn’t take any pictures of that game.  I did, however, get a look at the board where the FSL standings are posted:

On Saturday, we went to Tropicana Field in St. Pete to see the Rays beat the Indians.  “The Trop” is, to put it bluntly, a butt-ugly stadium. The astroturf is old and worn out, the acoustics are horrible and, when Rays fans ring those blasted cowbells, the sound is enough to make one wish the vendors sold earplugs.  And, to top it off, on Saturday night, some idiots brought vuvuzelas along to further torment their neighbors.

Here is the entryway to the Trop:

And here is a view of the field from the “tbt party deck”:

I wasn’t kidding about the quality of the turf.

On Sunday, we drove down the Interstate to Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte.  This is an absolutely GORGEOUS park that opened last year for Rays ST baseball, and is now the summer home of the Rays Florida State League team, the Charlotte Stone Crabs.  They have a tiki bar out in left-center field:


I’m really glad we went because it gave me another chance to see the St Lucie Mets, the NY Mets FSL affiliate.  The Mets are managed by Edgar Alfonzo, older brother of an all-time favorite NY Met, Edgardo Alfonzo.  Wilmer Flores, one of the Mets’ top prospects was just promoted to St Lucie, and he played in last night’s game.  Unfortunately, he went 0-for-4, but one game is not going to take him off the fast-track.  He plays shortstop so, unless the PTB don’t think Reyes will be around after his next contract, they’ll either trade Wilmer or move him to another position before long.

Here is Wilmer at the plate:

This cracked me up — the bullpens in Port Charlotte have tiki bar-type coverings for shade. This is the Mets’ bullpen:

Number 34, who was very friendly, is Scott Moviel, a right-handed pitcher who has bounced around the various Mets Class A teams since he was drafted in the 2007 draft.  He was injured for part of 2009, so that’s likely why he hasn’t been moved up to Binghamton (AA Eastern League) yet.  He throws a fastball, a sinker and a change-up but, because of his size (6’11”), it could take him a while to get his act together (see Johnson, Randy), and he’s apparently slated to be a reliever.

One thing that surprised me was that the Mets have a catcher on the St Lucie roster named Michael Barrett.  I figured he was some kid with the same name as the former Expo, Cub and Padre. But no.  This was “the” Michael Barrett.  He signed with the Mets very recently and is playing for St. Lucie.  He has been out of professional ball for a while, so who knows if he’ll make it back to the majors.

Another interesting name on the roster is Kai Gronauer, a catcher from Germany.  According to an article I read about him, he was the best hitter on the German national team, and now he’s in the Met organization. He’s batting .356 in 13 games with St Lucie so far, after hitting .267 with the Savannah Sand Gnats earlier on.

Unfortunately, the Mets lost to the Stone Crabs 5-4.  Charlotte came back from a 4-0 deficit to win on a passed ball in the 9th.  I was not amused, but I did have a great time.  Last night’s loss gave St Lucie a 11-7 record and they are currently in 2nd in the Southern Division; Palm Beach has a 10-6 record and they’re currently in first place.  But, as of right this minute (8:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time), the Mets are up 5-4 over the Stone Crabs in the bottom of the 5th.