Minor League Odyssey Bonus Coverage GCL Twins
by, 08-07-2012 at 03:01 PM (1360 Views)
I get into Fort Myers about quarter to two too early to check into the motel, so I decide to buzz out quick to the Lee County Sports Complex to see if I can catch the tail end of the GCL game. Sure enough, I manage to take in the last couple of innings. I drive in the main entrance to Hammond Stadium, go past the empty parking lots, and at the west end of the complex pull off the road onto the grass where a number of cars have created a makeshift parking lot. Walking past the Twins offices here I get to field 1, where the game is underway.
The field is basically a high school field, if that. There are no dugouts per se the players benchs are segregated by a chainlink fence that surrounds the field. There is no crowd noise getting in the way, so you can hear the banter back and forth from the players on the field and the bench as the game progresses. Some in english, some in spanish. There are three small bleacher sections, each about fifteen yards long and four rows high. Both the players areas and the bleachers are covered, so at least you are out of the sun. Looking toward the outfield, I immediately notice the complete lack of advertising on the outfield fence (also chain link) something that was quite prominent in both my previous stops. There is no admission charge, no refreshment stands or noticeable vending machines. There is however a restroom next to the field (for which I am grateful after my drive). Unlike most professional games, following the action requires careful attention unless you wish to be hopelessly lost. There is no scoreboard, no announcer, no roster sheets, no scorecards, no players names on the backs of their jerseys. If I go tomorrow I will need to take pen and paper just to keep track of the score, the inning, how many outs, etc...I will not try to keep score in any case.
The stands are about a quarter to a third full, with many of them being players not in the lineup (opposing team players interspersed and sitting side-by-side, conversing in their native languages). I happen to be sitting near a woman with whom I strike up a conversation. As I suspected, she is there because she has become friends with one of the players Jonathan Murphy. Turns out he and another of his teammates (Bryan Santy) met the woman at her church during Sunday worship (GCL takes Sunday off). It is a reminder that the nomadic nature of professional baseball often requires players to adjust and reacclimate to new surroundings on short notice. After getting to know them, she and her husband have become unofficial quasi-sponsors for John, helping him get adjusted to his new lifestyle and feeding him dinner a couple of nights a week (which is particularly appreciated as the pay at this level is meager). I ask her how John likes playing professional ball, to which she says, He loves it. That drives home to me what baseball should be about players playing in 95 degree heat with few people watching for a mere pittance, in part because of the dream of making it to the Show someday but, also, simply because they love the game.
The game ends, I make a beeline for my car to get to my air-conditioned hotel, and get ready for tonights Miracle game and the return of Carl Pavano.