Wednesday, May 17, 2017

St. Lucie Mets 0 at Lakeland Flying Tigers 2 (FSL) - May 16, 2017


When I first planned this trip, I was mostly concerned about seeing Osceola County Stadium, the newest venue in the Florida State League. I initially thought I would drive to Atlanta for the Jays, but eventually decided to spend an extra day in the Kissimmee area, just in case the Monday game was rained out. That opened up Tuesday afternoon, and a quick glance at the schedule showed that the Lakeland Flying Tigers, a mere 40 miles away, had a morning game. The 10:30 start time ensured that I missed rush hour both ways, and so I headed back to Joker Marchant Stadium to see the Mets and Tigers.



I visited here in 2012 as part of my Florida State League tour, so won't bore you with all the details. The stadium did undergo a renovation in 2016 and it is quite a bit nicer than I remember. The third base entrance is an example of the improvements.



The interior also seems to have been cleaned up and repainted; the stadium looks much newer than it should, being 51 years old.



There are some banners for current Tigers around the concourse.



The name of the venue has officially changed to Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. A lot of ballparks have found that selling the rights to the field name while maintaining the original stadium moniker is a creative way to gain sponsorship money while still honouring community heroes like Marchant. You'll also notice the Mr. I flag below, honouring Mike Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Tigers, who passed away in February.



I moved around during the game, taking pictures from each location. This was the view from my seat (which cost $9). It was completely unprotected from the sun, so I only stayed here an inning.



It was Education Day, so there were around 2,500 students in attendance, mostly up under the roof. I sat in the spot below for another inning until a group of latecomers piled into the section. I then moved onto the upper concourse, which was perfect as a steady breeze kept me cool.



Later on, I moved down by the Tigers dugout. This too is an interesting location as you can see the antics that go on between players who are on the bench. Ben Verlander, Justin's younger brother, is a Flying Tiger in more ways than one. He is dating Alexandra Daddario, who I was hoping would be sitting nearby. She wasn't.



When I last visited, there were bleachers down the lines, but these have been eliminated, so the seating bowl is now continuous from baseline to baseline. The recent renovation has made this one of the better FSL stadiums and I'm glad I had a chance to revisit and enjoy another good minor league tilt.

The Game

Two top prospects were on the mound for this one, with Marcos Molina (Mets #13 prospect) taking on Spencer Turnbull (2nd round, 2014, Tigers #14 prospect, below). Molina missed all of 2016 with Tommy John surgery and was making his first start of the season. He only yielded a hit in four innings, but it was a lucky triple down the first base line by Joey Pankake (7th, 2014), who later scored on a sac fly.



Turnbull meanwhile was superb, giving up just 4 hits and a walk while fanning 6 in his seven stanzas. The Tigers added a run in the 7th on a bases-loaded walk, and that was all they needed as Mark Ecker (5th, 2016) and Gerson Moreno each threw a scoreless frame to complete the shutout in just 2:21. Another great, well-paced game, the likes of which you will never see in the majors again.

Notes

This was the first of a New York affiliate road doubleheader, as I returned to Osceola County Stadium to see the Tampa Yankees that night. They won 3-0 in a game that took 2:13, making it three shutouts in three games so far on this trip.

Next Up

I'm heading to Atlanta to see the Blue Jays two-game set in new SunTrust Park. The Jays have made a remarkable comeback after their terrible start, so I'm hoping for that to continue to make up for the horrible day in St. Louis just last month. Check back in a couple of days to see what happened.

Best,

Sean

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