Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fort Myers Miracle 7 at Jupiter Hammerheads 3 - June 20, 2012

As I drove east through some Florida rain showers, sports radio declared the Thunder dead. If you believe in omens, thunder was absent from those storms, perhaps bad news for Oklahoma City come tomorrow. But first there was another minor league stadium to see and another game to watch, this time in Jupiter, home of the Hammerheads.

Roger Dean Stadium

Opened in 1998, Roger Dean Stadium is one of four spring training complexes that houses two MLB teams. Both the Marlins and Cardinals play here in March and their Florida State League affiliates then share the stadium during the summer, making Roger Dean the only ballpark to host two minor league teams on a permanent basis. In case you forgot, both the Marlins and Cardinals have won two World Series in the past 15 years, as you can see below.

Located in the Abacoa community in Jupiter, FL, the stadium is easy to access as it is just a quarter-mile east of I-95, exit 83.  Parking is free and plentiful, either on the streets surrounding the ballpark or on fields just north of the stadium. The Florida Atlantic University campus is next door; do not park there as you will probably get ticketed.

The Abacoa Town Center is across the street and has a few bars that seem to be worth visiting before the game. I'll be back next week for a Cardinals' game and will try one or two of these places and let you know then.

The ballpark is incredibly well-landscaped, with a variety of greenery both inside and outside. There are even palm trees right in the middle of the concourses. The structure itself is mostly sand and adobe stucco and quite attractive, fitting in perfectly in the community. Capacity is 6,800 and as usual in the FSL there are about a thousand fans, so there is plenty of room to spread out. Tickets are $8.50 ($6.50 for seniors and kids) but you actually get an assigned seat rather than typical general admission. Regardless, you can sit anywhere except the bleachers (below) which are closed. I am not sure why they don't simplify matters and just turn the entire park into GA.

There is a berm but it is also closed during the FSL games. This is too bad because it provides an interesting view; note the large foul area in the photo below.

This photo is taken from the same spot, turning 90 degrees to the right. Note how the right field fence bends in quite dramatically; there can be some interesting plays here as balls behave badly when hit down the line.

The concourse is wide with plenty of room to walk around. There were only two concessions opened offering limited choices, with the hot dog value set (dog, chips, small pop) at $3.75 sufficient for me.

Take time to note the display holding season ticket holders from the inaugural season in 1998; the Expos were on of the teams that used the stadium that year and it is rather depressing to see their logo here. This is on a back wall near first base, somewhat hidden behind an unused food cart, a typical treatment of the Expos even years after their demise.

There are also banners for the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame. Chris Evert was one of many famous inductees.

The most impressive thing to me was the video board, which included pitch counts for both teams. Unfortunately, the person keeping track was often distracted and missed several pitches, rendering the stats useless, but it is still a good idea.

Overall, Roger Dean Stadium succeeds on many levels. A small but cool neighbourhood, free parking, and essentially open seating with great sightlines. I am looking forward to my return visit next week to see the Cardinals.

The Game

It was the last day of the first half of the season, so the game had little meaning. Madison Boer (2nd round in 2011, above) started for Fort Myers, coming in with an ERA of 9.08 after struggling in several games earlier this year. Edgar Olmos (3rd, 2008) countered for Jupiter, coming in with a 1-4 record despite pitching reasonably well so far.

The Miracle opened the scoring in the second on two singles, a passed ball, wild pitch and sacrifice fly before Levi Michael (30th overall in 2011, above) was called out for batter interference on a stolen base attempt. That is scored as a groundout to the catcher if you were wondering.

Fort Myers added three more in the third with four consecutive hits, including doubles from Danny Rams (2nd round in 2007, below) and Andy Leer (25th, 2010).

Boer kept the Hammerheads off the board until the fifth when a hit batsman and walk led to two runs after Christian Yelich (23rd overall in 2010, below) doubled them home. Yelich went 3-5 and should be on the Marlins by 2014; he demonstrated a very impressive swing as well as good defense in centre.

Both teams added a run in the 7th, and Fort Myers tacked on another in the 8th to win 7-3 in a fairly routine game. Although only one error was committed in the field, this was still a messy affair, with two HBP, 3 WP, and 2 PB. Hey, it's minor league baseball, what else do you expect?


There was a bingo game and I actually won. Numbers were announced after every Hammerhead batter, meaning 40 numbers in all. I'm guessing that nearly everyone who played bingo came away with a prize. I took home a $10 gift certificate for a local eatery which will probably go unused as the place is a few miles from the ballpark.

Next Up

Miami! Tomorrow night I'll be at the American Airlines Arena for game 5 of the NBA finals before the Jays and Marlins play the final interleague series of the season. I'll have an update next Monday, so check back then.



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