As I child I could barely wait to pick up the morning newspaper to check the MLB standings and box scores. The Sunday paper had complete statistics. I committed the ERAs, batting averages and slugging percentages of the Pittsburgh Pirates to memory. My mom and her entire family were huge fans of the Bucco’s. She taught me the finer points of the game. It was a passion we shared. After attending Towson University, and moving to the Baltimore area, I began to follow the Orioles, and was soon chanting “Let’s go O’s”, and singing Thank God I’m a Country Boy during the seventh inning stretch. It’s okay to back one National League team and one American League team. I said so.
I was a city kid with no real hopes of ever getting to Florida. It was not on my family’s radar. So, I would go to sleep at night, praying for a trip to Bradenton, when I was supposed to be praying for all of those poor souls in purgatory. It took several decades, but my prayers were finally answered. Well, I mean, I made it to Lecom Park. I can only hope that those poor souls have also made it to their desired destination.
Now, having said all of that, those MLB Bums nearly ruined my miracle because of yet, another labor dispute between players and team owners. For the love of Pete, these guys all make enough money! The owners and the players have all turned into a bunch of fat cats who don’t give a hoot about their fan base. It’s sad, really sad. I remember, as a kid, taking a train to Philadelphia to watch the Pirates and the Phillies play daytime double headers. Yes, real double headers; not the watered-down, shortened inning type. We would sit in The Vet stadium all day, eating affordable hot dogs and popcorn. We brought our own coolers full of beverages. My dad could drink his own beer without paying the price of a case for a single can of lager. Now it appears that even 7-inning double headers are going to be a thing of the past.
In the 80’s, in Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, you could pack your own container, filled with icy cold Natty Boh’s (National Bohemian Beer) and go swill suds with Wild Bill Hagy in section 34. The stadium was filled with fans. Blue collar Baltimore could afford seats. It was not all about corporate suites and who could carry the heaviest money bag.
I’m shamefully guilty of throwing greenbacks at the greedy, baseball barons. I am, however, for the record, disgruntled and disgusted at the present state of a sport I once had a genuine fervor for.
“When the Sun of compassion arises darkness evaporates and the singing birds come from nowhere.” – Amit Ray
Rant over. Time to move on to the type of bird that does not feather its nest with dollar bills.
While in the land of the Grapefruit League, we wandered away from the manicured fields and onto the prairie lands of Myakka State Park. We took an 11-mile hike that took us through grass, saw palmetto, live oak and palm hammocks. Myakka is enormous, covering 58 square miles. The scenery is breathtaking and there is plenty to do.
A few more days in Florida, then we make our turn North. I am VERY eager to see familiar faces.