Collective Memories and First Impressions of Al Lang Stadium

Sometimes rummaging through YouTube can seem like a giant electronic flea market filled with too many odd things.  Things you don’t want, things you certainly don’t want to buy, things you wish you had never seen.  Then, if you’re lucky you might happen upon something wonderful, something unexpectedly pleasing, or something priceless.  The video below is one of those things.

About a year ago, I heard about several exhibition baseball games that were scheduled to be played in February and March of 2011 at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg.  I had heard about this baseball field many times, but had never been there.  They said it was old and no longer used for anything.  They said years ago it used to be the spring training home for one baseball team or another.  Then finally, its last tenant moved on to a modern baseball park for spring training and Al Lang Field was abandoned.   It was a shame, they said.  It’s so pretty there next to the water, with the bay view and the ocean breeze.

So, I decided to go see these games.  Before I entered the ballpark for the first time, I took a look around outside to see what the place was like.  Walking through the parking lot, I surprised myself by appreciating those noisy leaf blowers I usually hate so much.  I saw many puddles of collecting oak leaves, which gave the entrance a neglected feel, unlike the unnaturally clean entrance of newer ballparks.  I saw the many bronzed home plate-shaped plaques adorning the entrance and reminding visitors this had once been a special place.

To the left of the box office was some kind of an alcove, perhaps a service entrance, behind a metal fence which was closed shut.  Through the fence I saw a huge sign just sitting there, with the words “Minor League Baseball” written in that cursive baseball style used on so many teams’ jerseys.  On the sign there was an image of a batter in the follow-through of his swing.  At least that’s how I remember it.  I wish I had taken a picture.  I had my camera with me.  I don’t know why I didn’t.  I wondered where the sign used to hang and if any famous ball players had walked beneath it.  Some of those oak leaves formed a puddle around the sign too.

I showed my ticket to the usher and walked up the ramp to the concourse.  There was a sign commemorating former mayor Al Lang and his efforts to bring professional baseball to St. Petersburg.  He looked like a kind man.  Someone had carelessly blocked part of the sign with one of those portable trash bins on plastic wheels that janitors use to collect garbage.  It also seemed like the sign was designed to be backlit from within, but the light was not on for some reason.

On the concourse people were happy.  I overheard one man greet another and ask, “How you doin’?”  The other man responded, beer in hand, “I’m back at Al Lang watching baseball.  I’m doing great!”  He had a big, content smile.

I got my food and walked to my seat.  Its red color had faded from too many years of Florida sunshine.  Everyone was right about the view of the water.  It was beautiful.  Palm trees struggled against the strong winds.  In the distance, parked yachts awaited the return of their owners.  

A group of old men gathered in the infield for the national anthem.  They were dressed all in white.  I didn’t pay attention to the announcer as he described the group to which they belonged.  Maybe they were veterans, or former ball players.  I can’t remember.  I wish I could.  One of the old men took a harmonica out of his pocket and walked slowly to the microphone.  He played the national anthem and it was fantastic.  He went on through the whole song with that harmonica and I remember thinking this was his moment to shine, and he did, magnificently, until the very end when either his lungs or that harmonica failed him.  The missed note wailed sharply through the speakers briefly, but no one thought any less of him.  I hope he is there again this year.

Feb. 28, 2011 Canada vs. Seoul Nexen Heroes, Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg

Feb. 28, 2011 Canada vs. Seoul Nexen Heroes, Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg

————————————————

Advertisements

Baseballers brawl in Australia, Florida scarcely involved

The following points represent entirely reasonable justifications for posting to a site devoted to Florida baseball, video of a brawl which took place in the Australian Baseball League: The base runner rounding third base, Patrick Leonard, is currently a member of the Tampa Bay Rays organization.  He was acquired from the Royals as part of […]

Let’s Replace the Word Half-inning: An Update

Nearly two years ago now, the BBB proposed a new word to replace the awkward and awful sounding “half-inning” forevermore.   At every utterance, it is preceded by hesitation as the speaker searches in vain for a better word to describe either the top or bottom of an inning.  And so, as required by the […]

Ejection Video: Billy Gardner Jr., Montgomery Biscuits

Hello everyone!!!  Greetings from the American Workplace, where happiness is mandatory and important work gets done while everyone pretty much acts like an asshole.  Today we bring you the latest in Ejection Video, straight from the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.  The BBB staff of analysts, hangers on, groupies and what have you, requisitioned the company […]

Inflatamaniacs

  Attention reader:  Please power on your home all-in-one printer/copier/scanner.  Use the all-in-one printer/copier/scanner software to ensure your device’s color ink cartridge levels are sufficient.  With your feet shoulder width apart, bend at the knees and print this internet post containing the Inflatamaniacs character biographies shown below. Using a no. 2 pencil and your wooden […]

On-sale dates for 2014 spring training tickets

Happy New Year, everyone.  Now that last night’s distilled spirits have frightened away the sugarplum fairies in your head, it’s time to turn your attention to spring training.  Thanks to the good folks at SpringTrainingOnline.com and their informative email newsletter, we have below the on-sale dates for individual Grapefruit League spring training tickets.  The BBB […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: