Monday, June 14, 2010

Review of the 2010 Florida State League All-Star Game

(This post originally appeared on Bus Leagues

Thousands of years ago, the Greeks, Romans, Mayans, and many other societies of antiquity looked to the stars to see the future. Today, although there are few who still subscribe to astrology and horoscopes, the belief in the stars is mostly a relic of the past, left to tabloids and fringe websites. Scientific discovery has all but eliminated the notion that the lights of the heavens can illuminate time beyond.

This past Saturday, an hour or so south of where man has most frequently launched himself into space, the Florida State League played its All-Star Game at the aptly named Space Coast Stadium. Fortunately, the scientific discoveries of NASA, Cape Canaveral, and other people, places, and things don’t apply to minor league baseball, where the stars of today may be the future of majors tomorrow.

As Bus Leagues Baseball is more about the experience than the box score, I’ve decided to grade the game and my trip to Space Coast Stadium by ten categories which I think, pardon the pun, cover all the bases.

Game: A+

In what may be a classic, and despite being down 4-2 in the 8th inning, the South All-Stars defeated the North All-Stars 5-4 in 10 innings. Throughout the game, fans were treated to a showcase of the best talent of in the league, as each manager cycled through most of his roster in typical all-star game form. As I haven’t yet seen all of the teams, and some of the best pitchers take the hill while I work the 9-5, I was especially pleased each pitcher worked approximately an inning each. I also learned that in the Florida State League the all-star game can in fact end in a tie if neither team wins after 10 innings. Fortunately for those at the 2010 game, the South scored the winning run in the top of the 10th with a go-ahead single by Josh Satin of the St. Lucie Mets.

Ceremony: A

The Florida State League 2010 All-Star Game had all the pomp and circumstance expected of an all-star game. Prior to the first pitch, the players of each team were announced and filed proudly along the baselines, a color guard presented the colors, and a rescue helicopter from the local air force base performed a low flyover to the excitement and astonishment of the thousands in attendance. Also in all-star game tradition, after the game an MVP tiki trophy was presented to Satin by a representative of the league office.

Home Run Derby: B+

Prior to the game and the ceremony, the Florida State League hosted its all-star home run derby. Although I walked in towards the end of the first round, I could tell the wind and the dimensions of Space Coast Stadium were reducing the amount of dingers. In the last round, for example, Henry Wrigley of the Port Charlotte Stone Crabs hit two home runs to pull out the win over Quincy Latimore of the Bradenton Marauders.

Pre-game Taste to Celebrate Space Event: A+

Before the game, Space Coast Stadium hosted “A Taste to Celebrate Space”, a showcase of many of restaurants in the local community. On hand were the Florida Beer Company, TGI Fridays, Texas Roadhouse, Grills Seafood, Dustins Bar-B-Q, and several others. For the price of a handful of food tickets – given to each culinary representative to taste their wares – fans were able to fill themselves with an impressive array of ribs, pasta, egg rolls, and ice cream.

Fireworks: A

As they did after Military Appreciation Night a few weeks ago, Space Coast Stadium again ended the night with an impressive fireworks display. These never get old.

Facility: A-

I’ve been to Space Coast Stadium dozens of times, so this review may carry some bias. As far as Florida State League stadiums, Space Coast Stadium is nice, although somewhat average. In the past few years, they have added a tiki bar in left field with a new “reserved” deck. Unfortunately, the deck and its associated bridge cause some awkward dead space in the stands along the left field line. Personally, I am also not a fan of the new electronic scoreboard, which replaced a manual scoreboard several years ago. Otherwise, there is plenty of parking, the stadium is easily accessible, and traffic flows in and out fairly easy.

Vendors: A

Back to the subject of food, I was impressed with the vendors at Space Coast Stadium. At too many stadiums do vendors act like librarians, quietly wandering around the ballpark hoping to bump into a fan. Not so at Space Coast Stadium, where the vendors are loud and cheerful, alerting everyone in the area that they have beer, or hot dogs, or cotton candy. That’s how you sell.

Ushers: D

As good as the vendors were, the ushers were the exact opposite. I was sitting near the first base dugout, near where the players toss used balls into the crowd after each inning. Unfortunately, that meant nearly a dozen kids sat in the aisle by my seat hoping to catch a ball or two or some cases three or four. Although I understand kids will be kids, and everyone young and old wants to catch a game-used ball, but no one should be allowed to camp out in the aisles during a game. Unfortunately, it took the ushers until the seventh inning to control the young fans and tell them to return to their seats. I am not sure if anyone complained, or if they heard me complain, or if the ushers finally noticed what was going on, but that is unacceptable.

Concessions: D-

I only had one experience with the concession stand and it did not go well. In the top of the seventh I went to get a beer for me and my Dad. After waiting for 10 minutes in one line behind a guy purchasing a hot dog and a beer, I was told the stand was closing down its lines and that I and the lady had to go to the one remaining open line, which already had five people in it. Ten minutes after that, I finally got to the front of the line and asked for two beer only to be told the stand was no longer serving beer and that I was too late. Keep in mind I had already been in two lines for ten minutes each. When I tried to plead my case, and tell them that the person in front of me in my first line bought a beer, the concession people still refused me. I ended up with Diet Coke and a bad taste in my mouth.

Fans: A

Having traveled from Tampa for Saturday night’s game, I was curious how many other fans were making drives to see their favorite all-stars. I was not disappointed. I saw hats, jerseys, and t-shirts representing nearly every team in the Florida State League. And with fans from every team in attendance, every player got a round of applause when they were announced. Despite the general low attendance of the Florida State League, it was great to be surrounded by so many passionate fans.

Overall, I give the entire event an “A”. The 2010 Florida State League All-Star Game was my first all-star game experience at any level, and I had a great time. Not only was the game and the event great, but I may have seen the future of major league baseball. Unless, of course, the Mayan conspiracy theorists are correct and the world ends in December 2012.

That would be a bummer.