Saturday baseball always brings back memories. Growing up in a small town where baseball defined the communities, Saturday was always a big day. The town team always played Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday every week during the long summer days. Teener and Legion teams played Monday, Wednesday and Friday so as not to conflict since we played on the same field. Growing up the goal of all teenagers in town who played baseball was to get on the roster of the Legion and town teams and have a game every day of the week. The weekdays were twilight seven inning game and the challenge was to get them in by sunset. But Saturday’s town games were always the full nine starting at two o’clock and something special.
It’s different now that we are fans in the stands. But it’s still something special about Saturday baseball. The ritual down here in Clearwater is well established for us. Saturday morning 10:00 a.m. is extended spring training baseball at the Carpenter Complex or at the Blue Jay’s Englebert Complex up road in Dunedin. Then we get ready for the Threshers Florida State League action at Brighthouse or nearby ballparks over in Tampa or Dunedin if the Threshers are on the road playing the Jays and Yankees farm teams there. Yesterday was something special though since the Phillies were playing at 1:00 pm against the Mets. Baseball Betsy and we able to watch two of the three games but had to listen to the Phillies because we were blacked out down here in the Tampa Bay area by Fox providing us only with the Braves-Tigers game.
We were running a little late because of a quick breakfast along the way but as always super fan Walter we there to greet and update us on what we missed. Disappointed that favorite Andrew Pullin was over with the future GCL guys on Roberts Field we focused on the likely Williamsport Crosscutters on Ashburn Field as they battled the Blue Jays extenders. And as always we were glad we made it. We saw smallish center fielder Gustavo Martinez beat out an infield single and big third baseman Zach Green line a base hit to left. But the play of the day was a Dylan Cozens throw from straight away right to get a runner at the plate who had tagged up on a potential sacrifice fly. Big lefty Cozens camped under the fly ball, set himself and threw a strike on the fly to catcher Gabe Lino who put the tag on the runner sliding at home. If only John Mayberry Jr. could have executed a similar throw from right earlier in the week against the Pirates. Oh well, that’s baseball!
After a quick stop at our favorite coffee shop for lunch we headed home to see what was up with the Phillies. As expected the Phillies were not on TV so we had to follow the action on MBL radio with Franzke and Wheels. We were rooting on Jonathan Pettibone as he wound up going five innings to get his first major league win thanks in part to home runs by Dominic Brown and yes, John Mayberry Jr. He made up for that errant throw from earlier in the week. That’s baseball! We were happy for Pettibone since we first saw him pitch in Lakewood when the BlueClaws won the clinching South Atlantic League championship playoff game on a nice September Saturday afternoon.
Back to Brighthouse for the 6:30 Threshers game. We wanted to get there early to watch the bullpen of starting pitcher Perci Garner. Garner looked like a major league pitcher in his first start of the season but control and command have become an issue since then and last night was no exception. He walked four and hit two batter and lasted only 4.1 innings. But the Thresher, led by leadoff hitter Carlos Alonzo who scored two runs and the two hole hitter Kelly Dugan, would hold on for a 6-5 win and all ended well. With out a doubt Carlos Alonso is putting on a clinic on how to play the game of baseball at the plate, running the bases and playing second base. He is second in the FSL in on base percent and is having a great start to the 2013 season. Dugan, just back from a back injury, was hot at the bat going three for five and driving in what turned out to be the winning run in the bottom of the eight.
It was a great Saturday at the ball fields. You never know what you might learn or meet. Sitting in a shady spot under the overhang at Ashburn we learned how the Houston Astros owner is trying to cook up a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays to build a joint minor League spring training complex on the east coast of Florida. That would not be good! After the game at Brighthouse on the way out I was introduced by Baseball Betsy to Kelly Dugan’s proud dad, Dennis who was in town for the game. He told us he was willing to take a two for four night from Kelly. But the three for five night that Kelly delivered, with a tack on game winning RBI single in the bottom of the eight just before a frantic Yankee rally just fell short in the top of the ninth, was something special for all of us.
It was just one of those normal baseball Saturdays in Clearwater. It was baseball at it’s best at times and at other times somewhere in between but “that’s baseball”. It why we keep going back. No Hollywood actor or director could have done it better. Baseball is the ultimate really show. You never know how the Show will play out because baseball is never over until its over.