|Moe's small sign is on the stanchion between the pitcher and base umpire.|
The second distinct play spotlighted the umpires. With a runner on second, the Hammerheads’ batter topped the ball, sending a slow roller between the mound and first. Maikel Cleto, the Cardinals’ pitcher, scooped up the ball, crossed the foul line, and lunged after the runner—but missed making the tag. The base umpire, who had been positioned near second because of a runner on base, called the hitter safe as he crossed first base. Immediately, Luis Aguayo, the Cardinals’ manager, rushed to field and argued the call. And within a couple of minutes of intense discussion with both umpires, the base umpire changed his ruling and called the runner out for having left the baseline.
|Tug Haines captures a play in Jupiter.|
During the game, I met Tug Haines, a blogger who is attending games this season in each of the minor league parks east of the Mississippi River. A cranberry farmer from New Jersey, he fell in love with minor league ball a few years ago while his beloved Phillies were on a long road trip. And last fall, he came up with the idea of hitting the road for a longer trip than the Phillies had taken. With his sister’s assistance, then, he looked at team schedules and, like me, decided to begin his expedition in Florida. When he checked my itinerary a few days ago, he discovered that, although we’ll simultaneously crisscross the eastern U.S. throughout the season, the only place where we’d land on the same night would be in Jupiter, coincidentally while the moon would be approaching its seventh house. Maybe baseball is “the dawning of the age of Aquarius.”
Two teams in the Florida State League have home dugouts in Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. Like the Lakers and Clippers who share the Staples Center as their home court in Los Angeles, the Jupiter Hammerheads and the Palm Beach Cardinals call the same ballpark “home.” Fortunately for me, I got to sing for both of them in my one night at their ballpark.
Yet when I arrived at Roger Dean Stadium in mid-afternoon, I heard the unfamiliar “ping” of the bat making contact with the ball, not the great wooden “crack” that distinguishes professional play. I listened to the public address announcer calling the game. The Jupiter Christian Eagles were hosting the Benjamin Buccaneers in the final week of the regular season of Florida’s Class 2A High School baseball. While their game progressed, I sat on a bench outside the ballpark reading yet another baseball book. After both teams scored an unbalanced number of runs in the final inning to even up the score, Jupiter won in extra innings on a walk-off homerun. There’s nothing like a day filled with baseball!
The evening game between the Hammerheads and the Cardinals featured two unusual plays, ones more extraordinary than the walk-off, bloop single that ended the game in the eleventh inning--the ballpark's second extra inning game of the day.
In the first inning the Hammerheads' clean-up hitter Kyle Jensen belted a homerun off the "Moe's Southwest Grill" sign on the light stanchion beyond the 387 marker in left-centerfield. He certainly cleaned up with his good aim, winning $100 in gift cards from the restaurant and generating coupons for a free taco for fans in one section. The promotion called to mind Abe Stark's scoreboard at Ebbets Field that read "Hit sign, win suit." The trick there was to hit the low right-field sign on the fly. Cartoons often featured one of his clothing store employees standing as an extra outfielder in front of the ad, ready to catch any hit toward the target.