Friday, February 29, 2008

Memories of the 'Ed'

Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota is, how do I put this? Not my favorite stadium in the Grapefruit League circuit.

It’s too blah.

No real atmosphere.

But I do have some fond memories from the stadium, which is the spring home of the Cincinnati Reds.

It was tough to top one of my first visits. While working for the Sun Herald in Port Charlotte in 1994, I found myself inside the place – with about 500 other reporters and photographers – to watch Michael Jordan take batting practice.

He had just signed with the Chicago White Sox, capping his first retirement from basketball.

I stood by the batting cage and watched him hit weak line drives and ground balls.

Kids skipped school that day and watched from behind the outfield fence, crawling in the dirt to peak from the one portion of the fence not covered by ads.

One of those ads is still there today. Unique Air Services. Every photographer worked like a dog to get a picture of His Airness catching a fly ball in front of the ad for Unique Air.

A few weeks later, a friend sent me a photo that appeared in the New York Times of Jordan taking batting practice that afternoon. You could see me in the background.

Nearly the same photo appeared in Sports Illustrated. Jordan swinging and me squinting.

Neither one of us looked good.

I also ran one of my fastest 5Ks during a race held before a Florida State League game more than a few years ago.

I watched Tony Saunders make his second-to-last rehab start as the former Tampa Bay Devil Ray (and they were Devil Rays back then) tried to return from a broken arm suffered while pitching against Juan Gonzalez at Tropicana Field the year before.

Saunders insistent he would return from the horrific injury of a bone snapping while he was throwing a baseball.

The same bone would snap again during his next start, which was at Al Lang Field.

Not much charm to this park, but some nice memories.

1 comment:

Don said...

It is sad when spring training says good by to the 'Ed'. Like Al Lang, it is hard to say goodbye.