At the Thursday night dinner Steve Liddle was openly pessimistic about our chances of being able to play on Friday morning. We had had more than 4.5 inches of rain in less than 48 hours and it was just stopping. Steve said, "Frankly, I think it will take a miracle for the fields to be good enough for us to play."
It's a miracle! The grounds crew was working on our fields by 7am - raking, pouring sand and absorbent on the dirt, and removing tarps from the pitchers' mounds and batting boxes. They declared the fields ready for play! First pitch at 9:15am!
While the field was miraculously ready, Team A - Rick Knapp didn't have a miracle in them. The 1969 Miracle Mets who in their first 8 seasons in the major leagues never finished higher than 9th place went on to win the World Series in their 9th year of existence. No such miracle finish for Team Knappy, however. We could not break our streak and finished the week on a losing note.
|"Strategery" with my catcher John Schneider|
|A double to left field|
For the week, the teams I played on had a record of 1 win and 5 losses. I pitched a total of only 5 innings and felt pretty good with how I threw - but would have liked to pitch more. I was 4 for 12 at bat, with two doubles, and got hit by a pitch, scored three times, and drove in three runs. My first team with Darrin Garner won the first game on Monday and lost the afternoon game by a close score - with 11 players. Tuesday morning we lost the first game close and the next two games by big margins - and ended the day with 17 players on the team. Wednesday five of us were assigned to Team Knappy and we played with 6 new teammates. We didn't get to play a full game together until Friday morning, when we played pretty well but still lost. Although the week was very disjointed and it was difficult to get into a rhythm, it also gave us a chance to play with and get to know more of the campers.
|Just some of the Ponce players and coaches in Fort Myers - photo collection by Chris Clark|
Some extra notes: The big white spot on the Thursday blog should be a 20 second video of Victor Rodriguez showing me a batting drill to keep my weight back on my swing. The video loaded when I wrote the blog, worked when I previewed the blog, but for some reason has not loaded into the published post. I will keep trying to get it to work. I have the video (courtesy of Chris Clark) on email, which I could forward to you if you would like to see it (and if you are skeptical of my ability to figure out the technology to get it to work in the post!)
Arnie Beyeler, who will be managing the AAA New Orleans Zephyrs for the Miami Marlins this year, still keeps in touch with players he managed when he was at Portland and Pawtucket in the Red Sox system. He mentioned specifically Josh Reddick, who is now with the Oakland A's, and said he spoke earlier in the week with Ryan Kalish - who has had a series of injuries that have kept him from playing for nearly two years. Arnie started in the Sox system with Portland the same year Gabe Kapler started as a minor league manager with the Sox A team in Greenville, South Carolina. Arnie keeps in frequent contact with Gabe, who is now Director of Player Development for the Dodgers and was a finalist for the manager's job with the Dodgers, which went to another Red Sox favorite, Dave Roberts.
|Getting batting tips|
One of the campers this year came all the way from England! Shane MacKean is an English ball player who learned about the Ponce De Leon camp when he previously went to the Baltimore Orioles Fantasy camp. He has relatives in Baltimore, so he combined a trip to play baseball with Ponce in Florida with a trip to Baltimore to visit family.
There are over 600 players who play in Ponce over the year -- 75 registered for the camp and 66 finally made it to Fort Myers for the week. 7 of the campers (11%) and 10 of those who registered (13%) play on my weekend or weeknight teams back home. I don't know what that means - except we create a buzz about the Ponce spring training when we play back home to try to recruit more players for Spring Training. It was disappointing that Smitty and Rick from my weeknight team and Paul from my weekend team couldn't get out of DC because of the storm - but I know no one was more disappointed than them. They had all been looking forward to the camp since signing up in the fall.
I normally play about 50 Ponce games a year -- 9 in Florida in January - and then Spring and Fall weekend seasons in the over 48 league; Spring and Fall weeknight seasons in the mixed 30's and 48's league; and the Summer weekend league. Last year for a variety of reasons -- travel, injury, visits with family and friends, etc. -- I only played about 35 games, the fewest games I have played since I started playing Ponce in 2005. While we missed 3 games to weather this past week, I know that the Ponce Spring Training will help me prepare for a full slate of games starting in April.
With that I hear that old refrain - "wait until next year" - and the promise of another trip to Fort Myers.