My friend, the talented artist, John-Norman Tuck, http://john-normantuck.com/ , who I spoke about in an earlier blog posting bought four tickets to the Yankees –Rays spring training game in Port Charlotte, Fl. Whereas I am a huge Yankee fan, John-Norman is just as big a Rays fan .
The date was March 12; 2013. The baseball gods must have disliked something I have done. The weather was like opening day back north. The temperature was 58 with a gusting wind and cold showers. John-Norman and I with our two wives arrived at the ballpark called Sportsman Park, the home of the Rays Class A affiliate the Charlotte Stone Crabs. The stadium holds 5500 people with seating. Around the stadium from behind third base to behind first base is a large grassy area. This area and a cement area behind the outfield wall allow another 1000 people with standing room only tickets to watch the game. The game was sold out for a month. We could only get the standing room tickets. The grass was soaked so we had no choice but to go behind the outfield fence where the eating tables were located. We grabbed four chairs and sat behind the centerfield fence. We did bring umbrellas but found out from security they were not allowed in the park. Thankfully we had our Mickey Mouse rain ponchos.
Because of the rain there was no batting practice. We sat on four metal bar seats at a table behind the centerfield fence. The Yankee starting pitcher was Ivan Nova. As a Yankee fan I was interested in seeing if Nova would have a bounce back year. None of the eight starting positional players for the Yankees was a starter last year. There uniform numbers corresponded to speed signs on a highway (numbers like 65 or 70 and as high as 96). Two of the starters Nix and Nunez were reserves last year. The first five spots in the Yankee batting order were E. Nunez, J. Nix, T. Hafner, J. Rivera, and F. Cervelli. Let’s face it with Cervelli batting fifth you know there is a big problem. Two of the starters that I was interested in were Travis Hafner and Melky Mesa. With the injuries to A-Rod, Granderson, and now Tex, players like Travis Hafner, Dan Johnson, and Melky Mesa roles have expanded. Even a player like Mustelier, wearing number 96, may make the team as a reserve third baseman. Hafner looked old at bat striking out twice and going hitless and Mesa went hitless but made two circus catches in the outfield.
The Yankees went down 1-2-3 in the top of the first. In the bottom of the first, Jennings hit a rocket to the left centerfield area where Mesa made a remarkable back handed catch. Our seats were great for seeing the catch. This was the highlight of the first seven innings of the game as neither team could score a run. It seems like both teams expected the game to be a rainout and the players looked like they were sleep walking. As for Nova’s performance, he limited the Rays to four hits, striking out two and issuing no walks in four innings. The highlight of his performance was giving up no runs after having men on first and third with no outs. I would not call him sharp but it is only spring training. The Yankees scored three runs; two of the runs were unearned in the eighth inning to win the game 3 to 1.
After the game the four of us headed to a sports bar two miles away called Joe Crackers. The restaurant was filled with Rays’ memorabilia. It was a great place to eat after the ballgame and continue to discuss our predictions for the coming season.. From there John-Norman and his wife headed north on 75 to Sarasota and Tara and I headed south on 75 back to Naples. The four of us vowed to repeat the outing next year. It was a great time in spite of the weather. We also made plans to head to St. Petersburg to see a Rays-Yankee real game at the end of May. Photos follow in another posting.