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Minor League Odyssey – Day Nine – Game Six (Fort Myers)

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I arrive this evening curious to see just how exactly they are going to turn bacon into a promotion. I end up being underwhelmed – all it means is that you can purchase a small paper basket of bacon strips for $1 when you buy any other concession stand item. I choose not to indulge, and judging by how many people I saw carrying those small paper baskets around, not many others do either. They also wrapped the ball for the ceremonial pitch in bacon too (I’m not sure why), but it doesn’t seem to have any effect. The only interesting thing that happens during the ceremonial toss is watching the mascot (Miss a-Miracle) deftly dance trying to catch the pitch without landing her feet on the freshly drawn batters and catchers boxes. In any case, it is a small crowd, slightly under 800 (and well below their season average). Some promotions are born great, some have greatness thrust upon them, and some crash and burn, I guess.

The big question for tonight is how will Jupiter (and Fort Myers, for that matter) respond to last night’s drubbing. Almost immediately it begins to look like more of the same. Pat Dean starts off throwing three good innings, giving up only one hit, walking one and striking out two. In the bottom half of those innings, the Miracle start working the scoreboard once again. They open with three consecutive hits (followed by an error on the shortstop) to quickly put two runs across. The second inning goes nowhere, but then in the third they get hot once more. An opening walk to Ray, last night’s hero, followed by hits from Pinto, Rams, Gonzales and Leer score three more, and after three complete it is 5-0, Fort Myers on top.

It is at this point that I start to wonder if the game will get finished, as the skies start looking threatening and the rumble of thunder begins to be heard to the south. The weather has actually been somewhat better this evening – the temperature is still the same, but it doesn’t feel quite as muggy and there is an intermittant breeze to take the edge off. The game continues, and now Dean begins to fade a little bit. His command is not quite as good, the Hammerheads start getting some hard hits, and air outs are replacing ground outs. He gives up two runs in the fourth and makes it interesting in the sixth before getting out of the inning. All in all, a solid performance, but I am just as glad he doesn’t come out for the seventh.

Fortunately, it doesn’t matter, as Fort Myers immediately gets back the two runs in the bottom of the fourth (Santana scoring on a nice RBI triple from Lance Ray, and Ray scoring on Danny Rams’ single), and the game goes into the seventh with the Miracle up 7-2 and seemingly heading for another win. Clint Dempster comes in and immediately gives up two hits, but pitches out of it. Then, in the bottom of the seventh, with two out, the long anticipated rain arrives, and arrives quickly. In the space of a few heartbeats a slow drizzle turns into a downpour, the fans flee for the shelter of the stadium concourse, and the grounds crew covers the diamond with the tarp. While the rain is pelting down and the lighting is flashing, the PA announcer informs the waiting crowd that the safest place to be during a thunderstorm is in front of the concession stand. It is gratifying to know they take such an interest in our safety (or... are they trying to sell more hot dogs?) Given the five run lead with less than two innings to go, I am not surprised when, after the required thirty-minute delay has passed, the umpire comes out, gives the wash-out signal to the press box, and the game is called for another Miracle victory (giving me a 4-1-1 record for the road trip!)

I do give congratulations to the Miracle for one of the more novel promotions I’ve seen in baseball – there is an auto detailing firm in town who, when the game starts, goes through the parking lot and picks out the dirtiest, filthiest car they can find. When the license plate is announced over the speakers, the owner is invited to come to guest services and pick up a coupon for a free car wash (and no, it is not mine). I am also a little disappointed that the rain also washed out one of the between-inning contests – the shoe search. The family sitting a few seats over in my row has had their two young children picked to participate. They are going to have their shoes taken off and, after the seventh inning is over, their shoes (along with a boatload of others) will be dumped on the sideline and they have to go pick theirs out (with some sort of prize if they can do so). With the lightning, the contest is cancelled and the kids end up disappointed (actually, the parents are disappointed – the kids don’t really seem to care). Thus ends my time in Fort Myers, and I head back to the motel to rest up for the long trek up the coast.

Couple of side notes today. First, after spending a nice, quiet morning with a leisurely breakfast and some time spent reading on the beach (it’s still good to be on an ocean beach, even in August!), I head over to the complex and catch the first couple hours of the GCL game. I mention it because you never know who you will see over there. First, as the game starts, a Twins staffer calls one of the players sharing the bleachers with me over to him. It is Kyle Gibson. I learn later that he is being moved from the GCL team to the Miracle to continue his rehab. (Slama is also there and pitches in the game, but I left before he was put in). I also happen to notice, looking over to my left at the third base side bleachers, a man who looks suspiciously like Terry Ryan (later confirmed by a staffer). I spend a few minutes wondering if I should go over and say Hi and introduce myself, but before I decide either way he gets a phone call, walks under a nearby palm tree to take it, and shortly afterward heads off to another part of the complex.

The other side note is actually from Tuesday’s game, late in the evening when the lopsided score has made following the game somewhat irrelevant for all but the die-hard purists. A Miracle staffer is talking to an elderly fan sitting near me, and I can follow their conversation. The staffer is saying that the biggest difference between the pros and the high school/colleges from which players come is the schedule. It’s not changing to the wooden bats (most adapt to that fairly quickly); it is going from playing a few games a week to playing almost every day, non-stop, for weeks on end. It is the grind of professional baseball and how players adapt to it that helps sort out who is going to make it and who won’t. I find the comments enlightening and perceptive. It also points out to me perhaps the true value of the short-season leagues. It allows the newly drafted players to make the transition in a smaller step – two-plus months instead of five-plus – so by the time spring training and the full season leagues start next year, they have already begun to get used to the marathon-like nature of the professional game.

Updated 08-09-2012 at 06:45 PM by IdahoPilgrim

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  1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
    SO sorry the bacon promotion was a dud! I had such high hopes!

    Terry Ryan sure gets around. Keep an eye out... I wouldn't be a bit surprised if you see him again as your trip continues. He was here in Cedar Rapids in June when Beloit was in town. I approached him after the game, a bit nervously as well, but he couldn't have been more gracious. He was the one who was asking me questions and keeping the conversation going several minutes. You obviously have to respect the guy and not interrupt his work, but I sensed he genuinely enjoys talking baseball with fans. I've seen him do the same thing at times during Spring Training.

    Drive safe on your way up the coast! Maybe Gibson will be in Rochester by the time you get up there!
  2. Highabove's Avatar
    Nice Reports.

    Keep up the good work.
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