Big League Stew contributor David Brown is in Florida for a spring swing through the Grapefruit League. He'll be posting throughout the day — both to the Stew and his Twitter feed — plus he'll also be filing a report each night from his day's action, complete with photos, videos and observations. His trip continues to Port Charlotte, home of the reigning American League champion Rays (and their critters). In this episode, Tampa Bay shows the Red Sox the Rays can't even be messed with in spring training. Also, what or Who is the source of light behind Rays general manager Andrew Friedman in today's postcard? That wasn't there when he posed; it just showed up on the film! A funny note about the " '09>'08" Fathead-ish decal above the clubhouse doors. The figures were, at first, applied with the apostrophes reversed, something which Joe Maddon — also originator of the "9=8" formula — spotted first, of course.
This update got to the post office a little late, but neither rain nor raccoon attack nor a trip I made to Chick-fil-A and two Walmarts will keep the Stew's postman from delivering the mail. Besides, Port Charlotte is a good 90 minutes south of BLS-Florida HQ in Clearwater. Or, if you're driving in morning rush hour, it's 2 1/2 hours south.
Maybe no one will remember the first meeting of the exhibition season between the Rays and Red Sox as being too important to the outcome of the regular season, but Tampa Bay's Grapefruit League season had some bearing on their meteoric improvement of ‘08, so bear with me.
First, it was great to see Rocco Baldelli visiting his old mates. There aren't many nicer guys and his nature is reflected in how he's treated by those he knows. Also, Rocco just missed a home run in the cavernous Charlotte Sports Park.
And the Rays got in their licks, including a deep by Longoria, and led 10-0 in the third inning. It's not like the Bostons will shrink from the challenge because of a lousy exhibition game; it just indicates the Rays are ready to go for Round 2.
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In the above photo, Baldelli and Maddon shake on it while the rest of the crowd (except for Youkilis) seems distracted by something. Was it a bird, a plane or a masked bandit?
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The Red Sox couldn't even park right Friday. The fire marshal of Charlotte County came by the clubhouse to inform Red Sox Nationals and park officials that Boston's charter (chah-tah!) was parked in a fire lane and had to be moved — or else.
Would Terry Francona get that ticket?
After some haggling, the Red Sox's driver moved the vehicle to an agreeable spot in the parking lot — until the marshal drove away and the bus was moved back into place near the clubhouse door! Not sure if that was a little "Boston being Boston" or if a temporary agreement was made so Jacoby Ellsbury didn't have to walk another 100 feet to where the bus had moved while carrying a pizza box .
This would have been much less of a hassle in the late '80s when the Red Sox were 25 guys/25 cabs.
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Except for the bus parking snafu, the redone stadium (the Rangers used to play on the site) is a pretty cool place to watch a ballgame. The outfield bars, berms and party areas give fans 21 and older a great vantage from which to drink a LOT and watch some baseball, long as they didn't drink too much. And they got some cool giant banners with Dioner Navarro's image to top it off.
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Saturday, it's back to Clearwater to pick up some World Bleeping Champions vs. the World Bleeping Runners-Up action. And maybe back to Port Charlotte to check out what other furry creatures they got running around. Hey man, nice varmint!