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Spring Training is about to end and the regular season kicks off for 2017. For those of us who practice the religion of baseball another season of faith and hope placed in the efforts of our teams has begun.    (As you can see by this guy and his son, baseball is more than a religion for some.)

Our pilgrimage to Bradenton and   LECOM Field (Spring training home for the Pittsburgh Pirates and home to the Bradenton Marauders, a Pirate minor league team.) to experience the last three home games of spring training is now part of history for My Jane and me. Here is the Cliff Notes review:

Game 1:  Pirate ‘legends’ do some coaching during spring training. That is Bill Virdon leaning on the cane and Rennie Stennet is about the seventh guy down the line.  The Pirates beat The Twins 3-1, Matt Frazier and Andrew McCutchen hit home runs. This was a fabulous beginning to our baseball vacation.

Game 2:    The Pirates lost to The Red Sox 9-1. We were only six feet (The closest I’ve ever been to a game ball landing in the stands.) from where a home run landed but I couldn’t see the ball until it was on the way down. We knew it was coming our way because I saw where it was going when it left the bat, but the clear pale blue sky and the folks sliding past us toward their seats (where the ball landed) interfered with our focus on the ball. A Red Sox hit the home run but it was still exciting for this fan to be so close to the event.   The left field bleachers were filled with folks who must have been wearing ‘fitbits’ because everyone seemed to be in constant motion, like the ocean at the beach never stops moving. Maybe the constant movement has to do with there being so much to look at, like the left-field bull pen.    A snack you won’t find at PNC Park in Pittsburgh is ‘Gator Bites’- tastes like chicken- so they tell me!

Game 3: Pirates lose to The Phillies 8-3.   The folks beside us were originally from Mt. Pleasant, PA, a town near Greensburg in Westmoreland County where I attended grade school and junior high. Their son attended Greensburg Catholic High School across the street from my junior high. Some coincidence! Early in the game a Phillie hitter (sorry, I should have noted his name, maybe, Tommy Joseph.) got ‘all of’ a Gerritt Cole 97 mile an hour fastball   (it was immediately obvious the hit was a home run. The only question was how far the ball would travel.) The ball went over the 400ft mark in center field, over the building housing the restrooms and snack stands beyond the center-field wall and over the cameraman perched on the roof of the building. Anything going that far, that fast, should have a flight attendant on-board. My Jane and I were surrounded by Philadelphia Fans who went crazy. We couldn’t help joining in the exclamations of awe at such a ‘Ruthian’ blast. The ball had to travel close to 500ft-in a hurry. This morning My Jane and I were having breakfast by the pool and I whispered, ‘That guy sure got all of that one yesterday.’  She simply smiled and nodded agreement.

Have you noticed how baseball teams are a collection of guys from different countries, with different skin hues who observe a variety of religious practices? Might it be time to inform the folks in elected offices in Washington D.C. that all people should feel safe no matter their country of origin, skin hue or religious practices-like on a baseball team?

People like my new friend Flor (Spanish for Flower)   should feel as safe in this country as I do. Flor is a native Texan and mother of two. She has been accosted by ignorant people who accuse her of coming to this country to take their jobs. (I imagine she has heard worse, as well but spared me the details.) Note to ignorant people: American citizens, born in the USA, don’t all look like you. We don’t all sound the same. We don’t all worship the same. We don’t all think the same. Get over it! Think of America like it is a baseball team filled with all the different moving parts needed to accomplish the task of playing and winning baseball games.

Before you begin thinking our only activity on this trip was watching baseball games let me share the Cliff Notes on the rest of the trip.

We strolled along the Riverwalk (Manatee River)  where we met a couple originally from Sharon, PA (where My Jane and I met.) and visited with a church member who was serving coffee and pastries to the homeless.

We visited an antique shop (no surprise there!) named Retro Rosie’s and explored a couple of blocks downtown known as “Village of the Arts”. The best way I can explain this spot is to say a bunch of old hippie artistic types bought old houses where they live and have studios.  (We walked away with a mirror for our bedroom.) We found a fabulous taco place in “Village of the Arts” named ‘Birdrock Taco Shack’.   The chef, Dave Shipletts, does not offer your ordinary menu of tacos in this Baja inspired restaurant. My Jane had a Green Tomato Taco and I had a Rice and Bean Taco with a bowl of Jamaican Crab Bisque. The food was fantastic and as an added plus Dave, an Eric Burton fan, piped in the ‘The Animals’ playing ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’, ‘CC Rider’ ‘When I Was Young’ and other ‘Animals’ hits while we devoured our lunch. I closed my eyes ones and ‘too easily’ imagined I was sitting in a 70’s coffee shop. I’m already looking forward to next year’s spring training trip to ‘Birdrock Taco Shack’. We might even watch a baseball game!


See you next time.